Though a couple COVID-19 vaccines are coming down the pipeline, the Republican-led push to deny that the disease is fatal or even exists has fed into a deep delusion that will likely have dangerous consequences for people in this country beyond 2020.
Case in point: An emergency room nurse in South Dakota—where daily COVID-19 cases have surged to a record average of 1,334 in the last week and hospitals are at capacity—says she’s been dealing with patients on ventilators irate at her for treating them for a disease that they maintain is a hoax.
Yes, you read that right—there are sick patients, people who cannot breathe due to COVID-19, who are angry at receiving treatment for it.
ER nurse Jodi Doering posted about the bizarre behavior of some of her COVID patients on her Twitter page over the weekend.
“The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real. 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,” said Doering. “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.”
“They stop yelling at you when they get intubated,” she added.
How fucked up is that? Alongside the outrageousness of not believing in something that has killed over 246,000 Americans and 600 people in South Dakota (because belief is still allowed to supersede clear fact in 2020), is the sickness of people expecting care from beleaguered healthcare workers at the same time as they are berating them. Something is deeply wrong in America.
In an interview on CNN’s New Day, Doering explained that the kind of delusion she tweeted about isn’t a rare occurrence and that people are holding onto it even in the face of death.
“It wasn’t one particular patient. It’s just the culmination of so many people,” she said. “Their last dying words are ‘this can’t be happening, it’s not real.’ When they should be spending time Facetiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred.”
“People look for anything, People want it to be influenza, they want it to be pneumonia. We’ve even had people say, ‘well maybe it might be lung cancer,’” Doering added.
People would prefer to be diagnosed with cancer than to believe the coronavirus is real. That’s really scary. Whether it’s due to politics or a far more insidious and embedded cultural sickness, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a fissure in this country and we now all have to deal with its fatal consequences.
My heart goes out to healthcare workers like Doering, who are expected to care for and even risk their own health (and the health of their families) for people who’d rather grasp tightly to the party line than care about their own lives, much less others’.
Any desire to care about people seems to have been overruled by a love of the lies peddled by Republicans in power, like Trump, who have access to specialized treatment that most of the country could never afford should they be infected.
As we pray for an end to the pandemic, and President-elect Joe Biden preaches for reconciliation with deniers of decency—like those who refuse to acknowledge a highly contagious disease that is killing human beings—one big question remains: how do you maintain a society with people like this?