Some Patients Dying of COVID-19 Still Think It’s Fake, Says a South Dakota Nurse

Some patients who are dealing with severe—and life-threatening—coronavirus complications still say they think COVID-19 is fake, according to Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse in South Dakota.

“They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that ‘stuff’ because they don’t have COVID because it’s not real. Yes. This really happens,” Doering wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated. It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends.”

“The reason I tweeted what I did is that it wasn’t one particular patient, it’s a culmination of so many people,” Doering told CNN after her tweets went viral. “And their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening, it’s not real,’ when they should be spending time FaceTiming their families.” 

Many patients like these who mistakenly believe COVID-19 is fake are “filled with anger and hatred,” Doering said. “It just made me really sad the other night. I just can’t believe those are going to be their last thoughts and words.”

Dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus spreads easily, especially on social media. Facebook and Twitter have removed or put warnings on social media posts from President Trump himself because they spread misinformation or myths about how deadly and severe the coronavirus can be. 

That’s why it’s so important to vet where you’re getting your information to make sure you’re sticking with trusted sources. And no matter what kind of following you have on social media, take care to ensure that you’re not unintentionally amplifying misinformation. It may seem like a minor worry, but as Doering’s story illustrates, spreading these types of myths and lies can have devastating real-world consequences. If someone you love believes any coronavirus conspiracy theories, you can try to persuade them to back away from that misinformation by having empathetic conversations with them, sharing fact-checking articles, and backing up your statements by showing your sources, SELF explained previously. At a certain point, though, it may be time to step away.

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Seeing just how stubbornly those lies can stick—even when someone is gasping for breath and dying from COVID-19—made a real impact on Doering. She said she’s seen patients whose oxygen levels take a turn for the worst but who refuse to say goodbye to their friends or family because they believe the disease is fake and that they’ll ultimately be fine. “We know where that’s gonna head. And it just makes you sad and mad and frustrated,” she said. “And then you know that you’re just going to come back and do it all over again.”

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is very much real and, for some people, the infection can be deadly. Those who are most at-risk for severe complications of the coronavirus include those who have certain underlying health conditions (like diabetes, heart disease, or asthma), those with already compromised immune systems, and the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if you aren’t in a high-risk group, it’s crucial to do what you can to protect yourself and those in your community by staying socially distanced, wearing a mask in public, and washing your hands frequently—especially if you live in an area of the country (like South Dakota) with an extremely high amount of cases.


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