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This is a screen grab of a 10-minute video posted April 30, in which a woman alleges a friend told her that New York City hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are leaving the patients to "rot and die." We examined three of her problematic claims. This is a screen grab of a 10-minute video posted April 30, in which a woman alleges a friend told her that New York City hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are leaving the patients to "rot and die." We examined three of her problematic claims.

This is a screen grab of a 10-minute video posted April 30, in which a woman alleges a friend told her that New York City hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are leaving the patients to "rot and die." We examined three of her problematic claims.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 14, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A woman made a video claiming that a nurse working on the COVID-19 front lines in New York City told her that some hospitals there are “murdering” COVID-19 patients by the way they care for them, or by neglect.

  • One claim is the hospitals aren’t using proven treatments, but none of the treatments cited in the video, including hydroxychloroquine, are proven treatments for COVID-19.

  • Another claim is ventilators are damaging the lungs of patients. Ventilators are crucial for some of the sickest patients, but hospitals have changed the way they use ventilators as they treat more patients.

  • The video also claims that patients in “full code” are simply left to die. Health care providers denied that those patients are simply neglected. But some hospitals besieged by patients did institute policies allowing for do-not-resuscitate options to avoid spreading the virus.

An alarming video spreading online features a woman with a dire message from the front lines of New York City hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. 

In the 10-minute video, posted April 30, the woman identifies herself as a nurse practitioner who has a nurse friend who traveled to New York City to work "on the front lines" fighting the coronavirus outbreak. 

"For her safety, she cannot come out and say these things, so I am her voice….She wants this to get out," the woman says. 

Sitting close to the camera, the woman, identified in some accounts as Sara, speaks calmly. About 45 seconds in, she relates what she says her friend told her, claiming:

"In New York City right now, in some of the hospitals, this is what is going on. People are sick, but they don’t have to stay sick. They are killing them; they are not helping them. She used the word ‘murder’ — coming from a nurse who went to New York City expecting to help. Patients are left to rot and die — her words. She has never seen so much neglect. No one cares. They are cold and they don’t care anymore. It’s the blind leading the blind." 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The video does not identify the hospitals, so we can’t directly fact-check its claims. However, according to research findings and responses to the video from other New York health professionals, it makes three misleading claims about COVID-19 care in New York City, suggesting that patients are dying because of intentionally shoddy care.

"I’ve never seen someone so disconnected with actual clinical care," said Christian Castaneda, a pulmonary- and critical-care fellow at New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital, in a video he posted to rebut the viral video. "What this lady is saying is absolutely not true." 

A woman who identified herself as Rebecca, an emergency room nurse practitioner working with COVID-19 patients in New York, called the viral video "patently false" in her own rebuttal video. "I don’t know what happened in one particular hospital, but I can assure you that that is not happening where I work and it’s also not happening in the facilities of many, many of my friends and colleagues at other hospitals."  

Here’s a closer look at some of the claims in the April 30 video:

1. Claim: Medications proven in other parts of the country to help COVID-19 patients "are not being used in hospitals in New York City."

The video cited hydroxychloroquine alone or with zithromax; zinc; vitamin C; and high doses of vitamins A and D.

None have been established as a proven treatment for COVID-19, although some trials are underway.

Hydroxychorloquine and zithromax:

We’ve reported that while some studies have found that hydroxychloroquine could mitigate some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, other research has found no such effect. With more than 50 studies in the works, as well as an NIH clinical trial, it’s too soon to say whether the drug is a viable treatment for the coronavirus.  

Among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both was not associated with significantly lower death rate, according to the most recent study, published May 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As we’ve also reported, a Marseilles, France, study used hydroxychloroquine along with the drug azithromycin (sometimes called Z-Pak) on 80 patients and reported that the virus was essentially gone in five days. The research society that published the French article later renounced it, saying it didn’t meet its standards. 

Zinc: AFP Fact Check reported that one California doctor treated patients with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and zinc, but that there is currently no clinically proven evidence the treatments work. A recent medical article argues that zinc should be included in further studies with hydroxychloride because it might be more effective than hydroxychloroquine alone.

Vitamin C: Some New York hospitals have used high doses of vitamin C to treat some patients, Newsweek reported. A research paper published April 21 by the National Institutes of Health concluded that high-dose intravenous use of vitamin C "improves the outcome of COVID-19 infection," so more studies of its use for severe COVID-19 infected pneumonia "are definitively warranted."

Vitamin D: Other fact-checkers have knocked down claims about vitamin D. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford reported May 1 it found no studies on using vitamin D to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Vitamin A: We didn’t find any evidence confirming vitamin A as a proven COVID-19 treatment. Doctors in India reportedly are using zinc, vitamin A, C and D, and magnesium sulphate to "possibly reduce viral replication" in COVID-19 patients.

2. Claim: COVID-19 patients are put on ventilators with high pressure that "causes trauma to the lungs."

The video claims that after Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell, a New York City physician, posted his own video raising concerns about the use of ventilators, the video was taken down from YouTube and he was removed from his position in a hospital intensive care unit. 

But that’s misleading; Kyle-Siddell did not suggest that hospitals were being careless in their use of ventilators.

Kyle-Sidell, an emergency medicine and critical-care physician at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, posted a video on March 31 that was still on YouTube as we prepared this fact-check. Kyle-Siddell raised urgent concerns about how ventilators are being used on the sickest COVID-19 patients — but because of what he describes as an honest misunderstanding about the virus, not neglect.

He said hospitals around the country were following a ventilator protocol based on treating pneumonia, but that COVID-19 is not causing pneumonia and that ventilators must be used a different way to avoid damaging patients’ lungs.

In an article published by the medical news website Medscape a week after the video, Kyle-Siddell said he stepped down from his position in the intensive care unit because he did not want to continue following the ventilator protocols being used. "I don't know that I'm a whistleblower," he said. "I don't know that anyone was trying to purposely do any harm. I think that, all of the physicians involved and all of the nurses and everyone writing protocols — everyone is working as fast and as hard as they can with good faith and pure intention."

Some doctors have pulled back on using ventilators as they get more experience in treating COVID-19 patients. Doctors at University of Chicago Medicine used what are known as high-flow nasal cannulas rather than ventilators and intubation to treat dozens of COVID-19 patients and reported that "all fared extremely well."

We found in April that a recent study was widely reported to have found an 88% death rate for coronavirus patients who were put on a ventilator at 12 Northwell Health hospitals in metropolitan New York between March 1 and April 4, leaving the impression that patients should do everything they can to stay off ventilators. But medical experts said that’s a misinterpretation. 

The 88% death rate was among patients who either died or recovered. It did not account for the roughly three-quarters of patients involved in the study who were still on a ventilator at the end of the study, leaving in doubt what the eventual mortality rate will be. And a subsequent study found much lower mortality rates for ventilator patients.

"Ventilators save lives when used correctly," Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told PolitiFact.

3. Claim: "There are people who are a full code and yet, if they crash, they’re not doing compression, because it will spread the virus. Full code--not doing compression."

"Not true," Spencer said.

It’s possible a patient coded in a New York hospital and there was no response, likely because of a lack of staff.

The Washington Post reported March 31 that several New York City hospitals, besieged by patients, had taken what it called the unprecedented step of allowing doctors not to resuscitate people with COVID-19 to avoid exposing health-care workers to the highly contagious virus. Those policies were for coronavirus patients who stopped breathing or were in cardiac arrest.

The New York Times on April 4 profiled how COVID-19 "pummeled" the intensive care unit at Brooklyn Hospital Center, describing doctors scrambling to save patients on ventilators — including at one point, three "codes" — emergency interventions when someone is on the brink of death — occurring at once.

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Our Sources

YouTube, "Nurse Claims Covid-19 Patients Are Being Murdered In NY Hospital" video, April 30, 2020

Daily Mail, "Exclusive: 'It's a horror movie.' Nurse working on coronavirus frontline in New York claims the city is 'murdering' COVID-19 patients by putting them on ventilators and causing trauma to the lungs," posted April 27, 2020, updated April 30, 3030, "NY Nurses, Doctors Respond To Claims Of ‘Neglect’ And ‘Murder’ Of COVID-19 Patients," May 5, 2020

YouTube, "Response to ‘Misconduct in NYC COVID19 Hospitals’ by an ICU physician" video posted by Christian Lee, posted May 1, 2020, accessed May 11, 2020

YouTube, "COVID-19 Care in NY Hospitals (Response to ‘Sara NP’ Video)" video recorded by "Rebecca," posted by Satinda Rekastrait on April 29, 2020, and accessed May 11, 2020

YouTube, Cameron Kyle-Siddell video, posted March 31, 2020, accessed May 11, 2020

University of Chicago Medicine, "UChicago Medicine doctors see 'truly remarkable' success using ventilator alternatives to treat COVID-19," April 22, 2020

PharmaNutrition, "Intravenous vitamin C for reduction of cytokines storm in acute respiratory distress syndrome," April 21, 2020

Wall Street Journal, "Some Doctors Pull Back on Using Ventilators to Treat Covid-19," May 11, 2020

Email, Dr. Craig Spencer, professor of emergency medicine and population and family health at the Columbia University Medical Center and director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, May 13, 2020

Medscape, "Do COVID-19 Vent Protocols Need a Second Look? After treating patients with COVID-19, a New York city physician suggests ventilator protocols may need revisiting," April 06, 2020

Medical Hypotheses, "Does zinc supplementation enhance the clinical efficacy of chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine to win todays battle against COVID-19?," September 2020

Time, "Why Ventilators May Not Be Working as Well for COVID-19 Patients as Doctors Hoped," April 16, 2020 

PolitiFact, "Reports of 88% death rate for COVID-19 patients on ventilators leave out a big caveat," April 28, 2020

PolitiFact, "Hydroxychloroquine and coronavirus: what you need to know," April 8, 2020

AFP Fact Check, "False zinc and tonic COVID-19 ‘cure’ floods social media," April 17, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, vitamin C cannot slow or stop the spread of the coronavirus," Feb. 29, 2020

Journal of the American Medical Association, "Association of Treatment With Hydroxychloroquine or Azithromycin With In-Hospital Mortality in Patients With COVID-19 in New York State," May 11, 2020

Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, "Vitamin D: A rapid review of the evidence for treatment or prevention in COVID-19," May 1, 2020

PolitiFact, "Why medical experts worry about President Trump touting chloroquine," April 7, 2020

Hindustan Times, "Pune doctors using three-drug combination to treat Covid-19 patients," April 22, 2020

New York Times, "‘Code Blue’: A Brooklyn I.C.U. Fights for Each Life in a Coronavirus Surge," April 4, 2020

Washington Post, "Faced with a crush of patients, besieged NYC hospitals struggle with life-or-death decisions," March 31, 2020

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