In a Leaked Zoom Call, North Carolina Hospital Leadership Wants COVID-19 Data Manipulation to Spur Vaccine Acceptance Through Fear

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President Joe Biden, next to doctor Rasheeda Monroe, speaks with WakeMed vaccinators and vaccine recipients, after visiting a mobile vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 24, 2021. Faculty at Novant Health’s New Hanover Regional Medical Center advocated for padding the hospital’s COVID-19 statistics in order to stimulate vaccine acceptance through public fear.
President Joe Biden, next to doctor Rasheeda Monroe, speaks with WakeMed vaccinators and vaccine recipients, after visiting a mobile vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 24, 2021. Faculty at Novant Health’s New Hanover Regional Medical Center advocated for padding the hospital’s COVID-19 statistics in order to stimulate vaccine acceptance through public fear. (Image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Leadership at a North Carolina hospital discussed padding their COVID-19 statistics for the purposes of increasing public fear in an attempt to drive vaccine acceptance, according to a leaked Zoom call. 

On Sept. 10, National File released a copy of the video they obtained from an undisclosed source, showing a physician, Mary Rudyk, Marketing Director Carolyn Fisher, and President of Novant Heath’s New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) Shelbourn Stevens, discussing inflating COVID-19 stats by including recovered patients.

Rudyk, a doctor who previously served as the hospital’s Chief of Medical Staff, openly stated her intentions at the end of the leaked clip, “So I just want to say we have to be more blunt, we have to be more forceful, we have to see something coming out: ‘If you don’t get vaccinated, you know you’re going to die’.”

“I mean let’s just be really blunt with these people,” said Rudyk amid laughter.

The clip begins with Fisher talking about “how we get information out to the community on meaningful numbers” to promote vaccine acceptance through the hospital’s website and social media channels using what she describes as graphics that show data such as numbers of unvaccinated people in the Intensive Care Unit, including the percentage of deaths. 

Fisher is interrupted by Rudyk, who states, “I guess my feeling at this point in time is, maybe we need to be completely a little bit more scary to the public.”

Rudyk elaborates, “There are many people still hospitalized that we’re considering post-COVID” and asks how they can include this group in the hospital’s pro-vaccination propaganda. 

Fisher asks Rudyk if she means the hospital should simply mention the number of patients the hospital has handled since the beginning of the pandemic, to which Rudyk replies, “That’s better still, and that’s something that I can take to someone else,” before explaining she means patients who have been moved from the COVID ward, but are still hospitalized. 

President Stevens interjects to inform Fisher “we’re calling those ‘recovered’ now,” adding that “I do think from our standpoint we would still consider them a COVID patient.”

Rudky said in response, “I think that that needs to be highlighted as well, because once you’re off isolation you drop from the COVID numbers, that’s exactly right.”

Stevens then told Fisher “we can talk offline about how we run that up to marketing.”

The same day, an unapologetic statement was released through NBC Affiliate WECT News by NHRMC, saying the staff involved in the meeting “are seeing the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths so far in this pandemic” while lauding vaccines as “safe and effective.”

The hospital characterized the strategy call as, “A frank discussion among medical and communications professionals on how we can more accurately convey the severity and seriousness of what’s happening inside of our hospitals and throughout our communities.”

“We continue to be concerned with the amount of misinformation in our communities and consistently strive for more ways to be transparent and tell the whole story.”

A profanity laden rant

On Sept. 9 and in a separate story, WECT News promoted comments made by Brian Legere, a physician with Coastal Pulmonary Medicine in Wilmington on Facebook, where the medical professional said, “To all you who are unvaccinated by choice. F— YOU!!!”

The outlet said Legere “just rolled off a 7-day shift in the Intensive Care Unit, surrounded by more deaths which he said were completely preventable.”

Despite the standard of Legere’s bedside manner, he was nonetheless given a hot mic by WECT in an interview where his comments were equivalently extreme, “I guess the time to be nice is over.”

“You just kind of have to shake people and say ‘look, if you can’t do it for society, do it for yourself.’ I don’t want anybody to die of this. They shouldn’t be dying of this.”

It didn’t take long for Legere’s temper to come to a head, “There are some complete idiots who when shown death in the face will just cling to their crazy belief that it’s a conspiracy or they’re trying to use the vaccine to do mind control or whatever, or just some jack-ass theories. I think a lot of the patients, most of them have gone ‘oh geez, I should’ve gotten the vaccine.’ But there are holdouts, even some of the ones who are dying, are like ‘I still don’t believe this is a thing.’ How can you not believe this is a thing when you’re dying?”

He claimed the path to return to normalcy is through the injections, “We can get back to normal…The vaccine is not going to kill you. Covid is going to kill you.”

According to the North Carolina government’s COVID-19 Response Dashboard, the state, while experiencing an increase in positive PCR tests and deaths associated with COVID-19 diagnoses since early August, is still significantly below the state’s peak, experienced between November of 2020 and January of 2021. 

Since the pandemic began, the state, which has slightly less than 10.5 million residents, has suffered 15,075 deaths against 1,279,500 positive PCR/antigen tests.

According to the Vaccinations Dashboard, only 51 percent of North Carolina is fully vaccinated, mostly composed of the 65+ age group. Vaccine uptake has cratered since April and May, reaching a new low the week of Sept. 6 when only 57,942 total doses were administered.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.