Rev. Horace Sheffield III tests positive for COVID-19; 'this is serious stuff'

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

The Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a longtime civil rights activist in Detroit, confirmed Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Sheffield, 65, the father of Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield, made the announcement on his Facebook page that he had the potentially deadly virus and spoke to The Detroit News about his experience. 

"My thought process is you have to find out. I'm not playing with this," said Sheffield, pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship church in Detroit. "I have a dear member of mine in the church right now who's on life support and he's 40-something years of age."

Rev. Horace Sheffield III

Sheffield said he's been feeling worse the past day or so and likely will be headed to the hospital. He's been pulling back from all of his responsibilities for the past week and people around him began to notice.

Sheffield lost to U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, in the 2014 Democratic primary after Conyers didn't gather enough valid petition signatures for the primary but was put back on the ballot by a federal judge, who ruled a Michigan law about petition signatures was unconstitutional.

The longtime pastor said he did not have a fever or breathing problems but has lost at least 20 pounds with no appetite during the past two weeks. 

"I was in New York on March 12, and I was there for a meeting with Rev. (Al) Sharpton and some other folks about this Greenwood project, and when I left the meeting, I felt really bad," he said. "I felt like something was just taking over my body."

At that point, Sheffield said he thought it was perhaps a sinus infection and the next day after getting over-the-counter medication, he felt better.

"But then I kept getting this lingering feeling" and eventually got tested on March 16, he said. "I just got the results yesterday."

Sheffield said it took almost 10 days to get the results back and he self-quarantined himself at his home. His wife, who is a nurse practitioner, has also been tested, he said, but doesn't know the results yet.

The state now has 2,856 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 60 deaths in the 16 days since its first case was confirmed on March 10. On Wednesday, Michigan had nearly 2,300 confirmed cases and 43 deaths.

The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the U.S. topped 82,000 on Thursday. That’s just ahead of the 81,000 cases in China and 80,000 in Italy.

Last Tuesday alone, 24 people died. Among them was Marlowe Stoudamire, a well-liked consultant and entrepreneur in Detroit, and two Detroit Police Department officials.

Evrod Cassimy, a morning anchor for WDIV-TV, has tested positive for the virus and is at home, according to the station.

Sheffield said Cassimy reached out to him "and we've been texting each other, praying for one another."

The pastor said he had joked with his wife that there was no way he had the coronavirus when he his health began to fail. But "had she not taken me, I'd be languishing here now" and getting worse, he said.

"I just wanted to let folks know that this is serious stuff," Sheffield said. "We're not at the epicenter, we're not in New York, but look at the numbers in Detroit. Detroit has the highest numbers. People need to be very cognizant and conscious of this and just get the test."

(313) 222-2620