‘It’s absolutely real:’ Business leader Don Raines, hospitalized with COVID-19, pleads for people to take precautions

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — A well-known volunteer in the local effort to help small businesses and health care workers impacted by the pandemic is among the hundreds hospitalized in the Tri-Cities with COVID-19.

Don Raines the former general manager of Cumulus Radio in the Tri-Cities. Since March, he’s been an active part of the Region Ahead initiative which has been working to provide local pandemic relief and support from front-line healthcare workers.

Now, he’s in the COVID-19 unit at the Johnson City Medical Center after contracting the virus. Despite efforts to protect himself, he says he was exposed recently and tested positive last week. In recent days his oxygen level got dangerously low. He’s now receiving supplemental oxygen, convalescent plasma, and experimental therapeutic medications.

Even as he struggled to breathe, he told News Channel 11’s Josh Smith in an interview Friday night that he had a message to anyone who doubts the danger of the virus.

“They think these people dying is fake news,” Raines said. “It’s absolutely real. People are dying by the hundreds in our area. That’s a lot of people to be losing.”

Raines encouraged people to be firm in their commitment to stopping the spread.

“Eventually this will be over. And you want to look around and see your friends when it is,” he said. “So if you see your buddy not wearing a mask, hand him one. Beg him. Do what you have to do to get him to wear one.”

Raines praised the caregivers at Ballad Health.

“These people are just fantastic,” he said. “They work their butts off around here. This is not an easy job. These people are watching people die.”

Raines said he’s hopeful he can go home in a few days.

“If there’s one thing the nurses would tell you — and I can pass it along — wear a mask and don’t get in here to start off with,” he said. “That would make them happy and that would make their lives a whole lot easier.”

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