South Dakota nurse says many patients deny the coronavirus exists - right up until death

Author: Paulina Villegas, Washington Post

Posted on January 28, 2021


Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse in South Dakota, was overwhelmed Saturday night. Her patients were dying of covid-19, yet were still in denial about the pandemic’s existence.

It’s like a “horror movie that never ends,” Doering wrote on Twitter.

Her anxiety and despair are shared by many health-care workers who are facing a dramatic surge in covid-19 patients. But some front-line workers, like Doering, also face the emotional toll of treating patients who, despite being severely ill, are reluctant to acknowledge that they have been infected with a virus that President Trump has said will simply disappear.

Doering said she has covid-19 patients who need 100-percent-oxygen breathing assistance and who will also swear they don’t have the illness that has ended the lives of nearly a quarter-million people in the United States since February

“I think the hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else and a magic answer and they do not want to believe covid is real,” Doering told CNN in an interview Monday.

Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real,’” Doering said, adding that some patients prefer to believe that they have pneumonia or other diseases rather than covid-19, despite seeing their positive test results.


Doering’s weekend tweets went viral and prompted reaction from residents, health-care workers and local officials.

“COVID is amplifying the feeling of frustration and helplessness our front-line healthcare workers are experiencing,” Brookings, S.D., City Council member Nick Wendell wrote on Twitter. “We are in the midst of the storm right now. When we see our way through to the other side, the accumulated grief of healthcare workers in our state will be among the debris.”

The United States surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases Sunday (11-15-20), and health experts warn of even bleaker weeks ahead, urging the public to take the pandemic seriously and abide by strict social-distancing rules. They have also urged public officials to implement more restrictions, such as statewide mask mandates, to stem the spread.

Coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly across the country, but North and South Dakota led the nation in new cases and deaths per capita last week, according to Washington Post data. (originally published November 16, 2020)

In North Dakota, where cases have rocketed in the past month, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum has also acknowledged the phenomenon of disbelief among the population. Burgum pleaded with fellow residents late last week to take precautions, as the state’s hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

“You don’t have to believe in covid, you don’t have to believe in a certain political party or not, you don’t have to believe whether masks work or not. You can just do it because you know that one thing is very real. And that’s that 100 percent of our capacity is now being used,” Burgum said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) has opposed mask mandates and other measures despite the rapid spread in her state.

Noem has become a star in Trump’s circle by joining in his antagonism toward mainstream scientific opinion: She is one of the few governors who refused to issue a stay-at-home order in the spring, has repeatedly questioned the validity of using masks to reduce viral spread and hosted the president for a massive, tightly packed Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore.

Last week, South Dakota reported an 18.2 percent increase in daily deaths and a 26.5 percent jump in hospitalizations, according to data tracked by The Post. The South Dakota Department of Health reported 2,020 new coronavirus infections Thursday, a record for positive results in a 24-hour period.

“It is hard and sad because every hospital, every nurse, every doctor in the state is seeing the same things,” Doering told CNN. “These people are getting sick the same way, you treat them in the same way, they die in the same way, and then you do it all over again.”

Griffe Witte and Tony Romm contributed to this report.

Paulina Villegas--Reporter covering breaking news and national stories. Education: Columbia University, M.S. in Journalism.  Paulina Villegas is a General Assignment reporter covering breaking news and national enterprise stories for The Washington Post.


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