Fact Check

Did the Same Person 'Die Twice' from COVID-19?

Many people do more than one thing, in different places, during their lifetimes.

Published April 15, 2020

 (University of Memphis)
Image Via University of Memphis
Newspaper accounts reported two different deaths from COVID-19 for the same person.

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Scientists are still uncertain whether a person who has contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus disease can catch it again. However, according to an item circulated via social media ("Corona is so bad, this guy died twice!"), one person has apparently not only caught, but actually died of COVID-19 twice:

According to the two separate news accounts pictured above, a retired Milwaukee police lieutenant and a University of Memphis professor, identified with identical photographs, seemingly both died in March 2020 from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

However, the news reports of the COVID-19 victim seen above employed different headlines to refer to the same person, Lenard Wells, who was both a former police officer and an instructor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis:

[Wells] spent 27 years on the Milwaukee Police Department, where he worked tirelessly to bring racial equity to the ranks as president of the League of Martin, an association for African American officers.

During his tenure, the League of Martin sued to make sure promotions and assignments were fair.

"He wanted African American law enforcement officers to have the same rights and opportunities that were afforded to other officers," Assistant Milwaukee Police Chief Regina Howard said.

After his police retirement, then-Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Wells chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Commission. In recent years, Wells taught criminal justice at the University of Memphis.

Lenard retired from the Milwaukee Police Department after 27 years of service as a Lieutenant of Police. After retiring from the Milwaukee Police Department, he was appointed by Governor Jim Doye of Wisconsin to Chair the Wisconsin Parole Board.


Forster, Victoria.   "Can You Get Sick with Coronavirus Twice? The Jury Is Still Out."     Forbes.   8 April 2020.

Luthern, Ashley.   "'A Law Enforcement Pioneer': Lenard Wells, Who Died of Coronavirus Complications, Leaves Lasting Legacy."     Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   23 March 2020.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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