The latest example of misinformation about the ricocheting of the coronavirus on social media used the selfie of a Nevada doctor to spread false claims that downplay the severity of the pandemic.
In the picture Posted by doctor Jacob Keeperman, an alternative care location at the Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevo, on Twitter. In the background are empty plastic-covered hospital beds in an empty parking lot. The photo was taken on Nov. 12, the day the site opened, so patients have not yet arrived, Renown Health said.
“I would like to thank the incredible staff who are fighting for a Good Fight to help all those who suffer from COVID-19,” wrote Dr. Keeperman, Medical Director of the Renown Transfer and Operations Center. “In the last 32 hours, with 5 deaths, everyone is struggling to raise their heads. Stay strong.”
His photo was used by the @Networkinvegas account to falsely claim to present a “fake hospital” that “never saw any patients”.
On Tuesday, President Trump brought this lie to a wider audience and retweeted the @Networkinvegas post with the remark, “False election results in his name too!” Twitter marked the president’s tweet, noting that the allegation of election fraud was “disputed”.
In fact, the Reno alternative care facility provided a total of 219 Covid patients during the open three weeks. Across Nevada, the number of hospitalizations has increased 43 percent in the past 14 days and the number of deaths has increased 55 percent, according to a New York Times database.
In a Wednesday interview, Dr. Keeperman said he was “sad and frustrated” when he saw the attacks on his post on social media. “I sent this tweet to recognize and thank all of our health teammates who are often unrecognized,” he said. “My biggest wish is to never tell another family that we loved not coming home.”
He received outpouring support from local, state, and national leaders, health colleagues, and the general public — but he also received some “less salty messages,” he said. “I decided to ignore these and keep the hope.”
In response to the president’s tweet Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak said: “Consistent misleading rhetoric about Covid-19 is dangerous and ill-considered, and today’s conclusion that Renown’s alternative place of care is a ‘fake hospital’ is one of the worst examples we’ve seen.”
Dr. Keeperman said in an interview to those who claim that the epidemic is some kind of forgery. “Covid is real. I certainly hope you don’t get sick, but when you do, we’ll be here to take care of you. And we will have a bed for you and we will do our best. And then you will know how real it is.