COVID-19 was not listed as a cause or contributing factor on her death certificate, which was provided to the AP by the Hoke County Register of Deeds and was signed by a local doctor. No autopsy was performed.
A memorial ceremony held in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and streamed online Saturday renewed speculation when Richardson suggested her sister's death was somehow linked to the COVID-19 vaccine. She insinuated Hardaway may have been "poisoned" by another person who had been vaccinated, amplifying the false notion that recipients can affect those around them.
At the memorial, Richardson mentioned people “dying suddenly,” a reference that has become shorthand among some anti-vaccine activists for deaths they say were caused by COVID-19 shots, despite studies showing the vaccines are safe and effective.
Joined on stage at the memorial by Trump, Richardson said her sister died after returning to her North Carolina home from a relative's birthday celebration. Richardson noticed her sister looking strange and Hardaway suddenly said: “I can't breathe," Richardson recalled. She and her husband performed CPR on the kitchen floor as they waited for emergency services.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Associated Press writers Sophia Tulp in New York; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Lea Skene in Baltimore, Maryland, contributed to this report.