A Nevada doctor was disheartened after a picture he took of himself at his hospital’s alternative care site — a parking garage facility — for treating COVID-19 patients is being misrepresented on social media that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, even as cases rage in the state. Now his hospital, Renown Regional Medical Center has been the primary target for conspiracy theorists, who are using the misinformation to fuel their false narrative, according to The Associated Press.
Dr. Keeperman, the medical director for Renown’s Transfer and Operations Center, posted a selfie on Twitter hoping it would communicate the gravity of the situation at the hospital, as cases continue to surge. At least 34 new coronavirus deaths and 2,731 new cases were reported in Nevada on Dec. 3. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,218 cases per day, an increase of 21 percent from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reported.
Keeperman told the Associated Press he took the photo on opening day — Nov. 12 — no patients had arrived yet. In a tweet, he mentioned the 5 deaths they had in the last 32 hours and talked about the struggle they all faced, and thanked his staff for “Fighting the Good Fight to help all those suffering from COVID-19.”
Dr. Keeperman’s photograph was then used by the account @Networkinvegas to erroneously claim that it showed a “fake hospital” that had “never seen a single patient, The New York Times reported.
On Tuesday, President Trump allegedly spread the false claims even further by retweeting @Networkinvegas post with the comment: “Fake election results in Nevada, also!” Twitter flagged the president’s tweet, noting that the claim about election fraud was “disputed,” cited the newspaper.
On November 12, the hospital opened an alternative care site with two floors of supplemental hospital beds inside a parking structure to accommodate an overflow in COVID-19 cases if needed. In the three weeks since the site opened, the medical staff has cared for a total of 219 Covid-19 patients
Across Nevada, hospitalizations have risen 43 percent in the last 14 days, with a 55 percent increase in deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been at least 160,317 cases and 2,259 deaths in Nevada, according to a New York Times database. (Those numbers reflect Dec. 4.)
“It is really demoralizing to everybody who is out working so hard to have this politicized and polarized so much,” Dr. Keeperman told the AP. “I am holding patients’ hand when they take their very last breath because their loved one can’t be with them.”
During an interview on Wednesday, Dr. Keeperman said he was “sad and disappointed” to see the attacks surrounding his post on social media. “I sent that tweet to recognize and to thank all of our health care teammates that often go unrecognized,” he said. “My greatest wish is that I never have to tell another family that their loved one won’t be coming home.”
He has received an outpouring of support from local, state, and national leaders, from health care colleagues, and from many in the general public — but he has also received some “less than savory messages,” he said. “I have chosen to ignore those and to keep hope,” reported the Times.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) posted on his Twitter response to President Trump’s latest comments about his state on Dec. 1.
“For nearly nine months, the State of Nevada has not only had to battle this pandemic, but we have also had to fight the President's nonstop attempts to politicize a virus that has led to over 260,000 American deaths,” he said. “His consistent misleading rhetoric on COVID-19 is dangerous and reckless, and today's implication that Renown's alternate care site is a "fake hospital" is among the worst examples we've seen.”