FACT CHECK: CNN's Viral COVID-19 Nurse Might Have Overembellished A Bit

On Monday a South Dakota nurse by the name of Jodi Doering made waves across social media as a result of a CNN interview in which she claimed she’s currently treating numerous COVID-19 patients who denying the virus’s existence while dying horrible deaths from COVID-19 in packed hospitals in South Dakota. The only problem is, the story is likely false and if not, a gross over-embellishment of the facts.

Nurse Doering, a Marquette grad and licensed Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) lives in a little town called Woonsocket, in Sanborn County. Sanborn County has had just one COVID-19 death since the beginning of the pandemic, according to South Dakota’s COVID-19 statistics website, which provides data from all the different regions and counties in South Dakota, and USFacts.org. That death occurred in October.

(Sounds a little bit like this debunked crying nurse story from back in April, doesn’t it?)

Doering doesn’t list a place of employment on her social media pages, but RedState has determined she was an employee of Huron Regional Medical Center, where she has worked, at times, on the COVID-19 unit in the hospital.  According to the hospital’s marketing lead, with whom RedState spoke this morning, the hospital has only seen six deaths total since the beginning of the outbreak, compared to 22 deaths total in the entire county of Beadle, where HRMC is located.  At HRMC there are currently only six non-critical COVID-19 patients in the hospital, one of whom is in the ICU.  There are no patients currently on ventilators, according to the State’s COVID-19 statistics page.

This discrepancy was originally brought to my attention by Mediaite’s John Ziegler, who questioned how the nurse could have had contact with as many patients as she reported, despite such a low count for the county in which she worked.

Ziegler said in a statement to RedState:

“The story is inherently nonsensical, and her demeanor is odd. Her original viral tweet said nothing at all about “death” and her description of patients “shouting” seemed very inconsistent with someone who was dying of COVID. Also, she is an ER nurse, not apparently an ICU worker. It was also very obvious that her politics are liberal, so that also made me suspect her bias against Trump supporters in her area. Finally, my initial research into the local death data raised further serious questions.

I also know that CNN’s vetting of such a situation would likely be nonexistent, especially given the narrative here is one they love. It is nearly impossible to prove her story is false unless someone from the hospital calls out her story, so I doubt there will be any accountability here. This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened, and I am sure it will not be the last.”

Ziegler’s statement led to RedState conducting further investigation into the matter. Of the six deaths identified, RedState was able to determine that one was the tragic case of a 21-year-old mother of three who died back in May.  Without revealing the identity of the mother, RedState has determined that she likely was not a patient who denied the existence of the virus. That leaves us with five patients that died at the hospital since the beginning of the outbreak, whom we have not been able to identify. RedState was not able to determine whether or not Doering was working at the time of any of the deaths.  She could have been there for all five, or there for none of them.  The narrative that Doering appeared to be weaving does is not supported by the facts.

Beadle County COVID Stats
Huron Regional Medical Center Current Hospitalization Stats
The Regional Bed Capacity Statistics from South Dakota, including Beadle County

Doering’s social media postings clearly show she leans hard left.  Her actions leave some very difficult questions as to why Doering would have violated patient privacy laws in the case her accounts are true, and some even more difficult questions if she has made the case up.  Even if she were telling the truth about one patient, the story that she’s witnessing this on a consistent and regular basis appears to be a complete fabrication.  As you can see from the statistic above, Huron Regional Medical Center does not have an alarmingly high patient load, the region seems safe in their capacities, and there isn’t a single patient in the region on a ventilator.

Doering’s account on Twitter (and during her CNN interview) imply that these events are happening consistently, that she was encountering this problem on a regular basis.  While Doering may have witnessed her described situation once or twice (or at the most five times over eight months), the way the media blew it up made it seem like she was in a full COVID-19 treatment ward that was encountering this situation multiple times a day. From stats and the data available, as well as contact with the hospital, that appears to just not be the case.

UPDATE:  This article was updated with a quote from John Ziegler that came in after the initial publishing of the article.