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California deputy DA opposed to vaccine mandates dies of COVID-19

Kelly Ernby, a 46-year-old deputy district attorney and GOP leader in California's Orange County, has died, a week after she let friends know she was sick with COVID-19.

In a statement, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said his office is "utterly heartbroken" by her death, adding that she "was an incredibly vibrant and passionate attorney who cared deeply about the work that we do as prosecutors — and deeply about the community we all fight so hard to protect."

Orange County GOP activist Jon Fleischman told the Los Angeles Times Ernby shared with him last week that she was ill, and they planned to speak again this week. Her death was "sudden" and unexpected, Fleischman added. Ernby, a member of the OCGOP central committee, ran for state Assembly in 2020, and was expected to throw her hat in the ring again this year.

Ernby was a vocal opponent of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and the Orange County Register reports that her husband, Axel Ernby, posted on social media that she was not vaccinated. After news of her death spread, some Orange County GOP activists claimed Ernby had received a COVID-19 vaccine, to which Axel wrote on Monday evening, "stop spreading lies. She was NOT vaccinated. That was the problem." 

On Dec. 4, Ernby attended an anti-mandate rally in Irvine, California, organized by the UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton chapters of Turning Point USA. Cal State Fullerton's Daily Titan reported at the time that Ernby addressed the crowd of a few dozen people, telling them, "There's nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now."