Inside police headquarters in St. Petersburg, Karen Weiskopf never wanted to be here surrounded by cameras and speaking with a reporter.
“Here we are,” Weiskopf said. “It’s still surreal,” she said.
Less than one month ago, Weiskopf lost her husband of nearly 20 years to COVID-19. Michael Weiskopf was an 18-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department. He most recently had served as a traffic homicide investigator.
“I’m taking it hour by hour, day by day,” Weiskopf said in her first sit-down interview since her husband’s death. Her husband died August 27, after a grueling 28-day long battle with the virus that started with a minor headache but landed him in the ICU about a week later.
“It all happened so fast,” she said about her husband who she described as strong and healthy before COVID-19.
On the day he died, Mrs. Weiskopf had received an early morning call from the critical care ICU where her husband had been intubated for weeks after initially being admitted to the hospital for COVID pneumonia.
“The nurse was waiting, she put her arms out and said I’m so sorry we worked on him for two hours, Mike didn’t make it. I was like no, no, this can’t be, this can’t be,” she described.
The news came as a shock since one day earlier, Weiskopf said doctors had told her he was showing signs of improvement and were planning to “fast track” him from the critical care ICU.
“He was supposed to be coming home,” she said.
Weiskopf is now speaking out to warn others who, like her husband, may be resistant to
taking the vaccine. While she was vaccinated, her husband had refused to take it. “There was so much information floating around, he didn’t have all the facts,” she said about why her husband wasn’t vaccinated.
“My purpose is to make sure no one goes through what he went through. There wasn’t one day, one hour, one moment that he didn’t suffer,” she said. “This did not have to happen.”
Florida has reported at least 63 deaths so far according to the FOP, second only to Texas.
But despite the death count that continues for men and women who wear the badge, the industry remains reluctant to support mandated vaccines.
“As a union head we don’t like being mandated or pushed into anything like that,” said John Kazanjian, Director of Florida’s Police Benevolent Association, the state’s largest police union.
To date, a small handful of Florida cities and counties have approved vaccine mandates though law enforcement officers are largely not included because unions, by and large, won’t support it.
Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he would fine local governments who mandate shots for city and county employees.
Karen Weiskopf supports mandated vaccines for government employees.
“If you’re out there dealing with the public why would we not? Why would we not? Go get a vaccine, if you need to go with you, I’ll go with you,” she said.
What she said she witnessed and lost with her husband has left a much heftier price she’ll spend the rest of her life trying to overcome.
“I’ve said is there any way I can go to sleep and die of a broken heart because it would be a lot easier,” she said through tears.