A little under a week ago, CNN interviewed a South Dakota emergency room nurse who claimed that patients dying of COVID-19 in “overrun” hospitals in her area are spending their last moments in denial that they have the virus.
“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real.’ And when they should be … Facetiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred,” Jodi Doering told CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota.
“Every hospital, every nurse, every doctor in this state is seeing the same things. These people get sick in the same way you treat them in the same way. They die in the same way,” she added, criticizing South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for politicizing the virus.
A South Dakota ER nurse @JodiDoering says her Covid-19 patients often “don’t want to believe that Covid is real.”
“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real.’ And when they should be… Facetiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred.” pic.twitter.com/tgUgP6znAT
— New Day (@NewDay) November 16, 2020
Her story, however, doesn’t fully line up with data tracking COVID-19 deaths in the hospital where she works, or even her region of the state.
Doering was first invited onto the mainstream media network after her Twitter thread describing her supposed experience working as a nurse in the age of COVID-19.
According to Doering’s thread, some patients at her hospital who were infected with the virus don’t believe it is real.
“The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real,” she wrote. “The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is … going to ruin the USA. All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm.”
Going to ruin the USA. All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. 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. And
— Jodi Orth (@JodiOrth) November 15, 2020
Which is what I will do for the next three nights. But tonight. It’s me and Cliff and Oreo ice cream. And how ironic I have on my “home”
Hoodie. The South Dakota I love seems far away right now. pic.twitter.com/3e5Qg4yAuS
— Jodi Orth (@JodiOrth) November 15, 2020
Doering’s words and CNN interview were shared widely by Democrats and journalists alike, some claiming that disinformation from Republicans and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
This is heartbreaking—and a direct result of the steady stream of lies flowing from the Trump administration to the American people from the beginning. https://t.co/xmbgy5gCYT
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) November 16, 2020
COVID-19 is real. It doesn't care about red states or blue states, and spreading disinformation does nothing to stop the spread. Please wear a mask. https://t.co/q42Mt8Tr7l
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) November 16, 2020
I'm likewise struck by how many old high school friends in rural Oregon ask me — even after almost a quarter million deaths — whether Covid-19 is real, or just some kind of hoax. The president and Fox News are partly responsible for those doubts, and deaths. https://t.co/RSoJE66hUN
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) November 16, 2020
Heartbreaking. Denial even facing death. I’m so sad for people. https://t.co/5ErkFweWq9
— Sara Sidner (@sarasidnerCNN) November 16, 2020
"We just want to help," @JodiDoering said. "If we don't get help from the public as far as masks and social distancing… I'm not your first line of defense, I'm your last."
— Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) November 16, 2020
Since her post went viral, news outlets like the Washington Post, USA Today, The Daily Beast, and Huffpost picked up the story without much variation, leaving the fact-checking of Doering’s on-air statements up to other outlets who pointed out irregularities in her story and questioning why it was contextualized or verified by CNN.
While COVID-19 cases in South Dakota continue to rise, one Wired reporter wrote that after touching base with “a number of hospitals in the same part of South Dakota to ask emergency room nurses if they’d noticed the same, disturbing phenomenon,” other nurses, even some at one of the medical centers where Doering works, denied ever interacting with a patient as the viral nurse described in her interview.
“No one else has gotten that statement back from a patient, specifically,” Kim Rieger, a spokeswoman for the Huron Regional Medical Center told National Review. “Nor have they heard of that happening here. Not to call her a liar, because she provides care here as well as other hospitals, so it could have happened at another hospital.”
The Wired reporting also notes that the same medical center where Huron reportedly works only had six total COVID-19 deaths, the county housing the medical center had seen 22 deaths, and Doering’s county had only seen one death, making the narrative depicted in the CNN interview seem exaggerated and misleading.
“It’s certainly possible that the other facilities where Doering works have seen a higher number of fatalities; she may indeed have watched a great many patients die, as so many frontline workers have,” the article notes. “But when all we have is one person’s story, it’s hard to know exactly what it means.”