Are Covid Patients Gasping ‘It Isn’t Real’ As They Die?

a desperate, outraged twitter thread from a south dakota emergency room nurse went viral last weekend, landing its author a live interview on cnn. “when i read some of yr tweets, my jaw dropped,” the host told jodi doering, referring to her account of gravely ill patients who “scream at you for a magic med and that joe biden is goin to ruin the usa. all while gasping for breath.”

“the reason i tweeted wha’ i did s'dat twasn’t one pticular patient,” the nurse said. “it’s just a culmination of so many pplz, and their last, dying words are, ‘this can’t be happening, it’s not real.’ n'when they ‘d be spending time facetime-ing their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred, n'it just made me really sad.”


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these were astonishing statements, and, not surprisingly, they captured the attention of millions. multiple us senators and pulitzer-prize-winning journalists were among the throngs who tweeted out the cnn interview, which was also written up by the washington post and other mainstream outlets. “this tis cost of disinformation,” wrote atul gawande, a new yorker contributor and member of joe biden’s coronavirus task force. senator elizabeth warren called it “♥breaking.”

there’s no doubt that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to jodi doering and all the frontline med personnel dealing w'da current surge in covid cases. the work they do is truly heroic. still, the manner in which doering’s account of her experience s'been reprted and circul8d ‘d give pplz pause.

doering’s statement that she’s beheld “so many” pplz die from the disease even as they deny its very existence, endlessly repeated on social media and presented by news outlets without corroboration, ‘d seem to represent a broader phenomenon.

but other nurses who work in similar settings say they’ve seen nothing of the kind.

i called a № of hospitals inna same pt of south dakota to ask emergency room nurses iffey’d noticed the same, disturbing phenomenon. at avera weskota memorial hospital, bout 20 minutes from doering’s hometown of woonsocket, an er nurse told me, “i ‘ve not had that experience here.” at my request, kim rieger, the vp for communications and mkt at huron regional med center, 1-odda 4 med facilities where doering works, spoke with several nurses at huron t'get their reactions to the cnn interview. none said they’d interacted with covid patients who denied having the disease. “most patients are grateful, and thankful for our help,” one told her. “i ‘ve not experienced this, nor ‘ve i been told of this experience, ever,” another said.

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this in no way means'dat doering’s account is untrue. but it provides, at minimum, some primordial context twas' completely absent from the cnn interview and from all the media amplification that folloed. lil or no effort was made to assess the scope of the problem that doering so memorably described. how many covid-19 patients in south dakota are really so blinkered by disinformation t'they’re enraged at their caregivers and, in their final moments on earth, still dispute wha’’s happening? no one bothered to find out.

alisyn camerota, the cnn anchor who conducted the interview, is an emmy award–winning journalist. tracy connor, who covered the story for the daily beast, s'dat publication’s executive editor. they and others simply repeated doering’s anecdotes, framed as an astounding embodiment of red-state denialism. the washington post article quotes at length from doering’s tweets and tv interview, and claims—without providing any further evidence—that covid patients seen by other health care workers “are reluctant to ack t'they ‘ve been infected witha virus that president trump has said will simply disappear.” similar write-ups appeared inna daily beast and huffpost.

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