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Doctors and nurses battle virus skeptics

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Treating the sick and dying isn’t even the toughest part for nurse Amelia Montgomery as the coronavirus surges in her corner of red America.

It’s dealing with patients and relatives who don’t believe the virus is real, refuse to wear masks and demand treatments like hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has championed even though experts say it is not effective against the scourge that has killed over 210,000 in the U.S.

Montgomery finds herself, like so many other doctors and nurses, in a world where the politics of the crisis are complicating treatment efforts, with some people even resisting getting tested.


It’s unclear how Trump’s bout with the virus will affect the situation, but some doctors aren’t optimistic. After a few days of treatment at a military hospital, the president tweeted Monday, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

After one tough shift on the coronavirus unit at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Montgomery went onto Facebook to vent her frustrations about caring for patients who didn’t socially distance because they didn’t believe the virus was real. The hospital later shared her post on its website.

She complained that some people demand the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and think the only patients who get really sick have underlying health problems.

“The majority of people don’t understand and can’t picture what we are seeing. That has been frustrating for all of us,” Montgomery said in an interview, adding: “It wears.”

Combating virus skeptics is a battle across the country.

In Georgia, at Augusta University Medical Center, visitors have tried to get around the mask requirement by wearing face coverings made of fishnet and other material with visible holes, something the hospital has dubbed “malicious compliance.” People also have shown up with video cameras in an attempt to collect proof the virus is a hoax, said Dr. Phillip Coule, the health system’s chief medical officer, who contracted the virus in July and has seen two staff members die.

“Just imagine that while you are caring for your own staff that are dying from this disease, and while you are trying to keep yourself safe, and you are trying to keep your family safe, and you are trying to deal with a disease that such little is known about, and then to have somebody tell you that it is all a hoax after you have been dealing with that all day,” he said. “Imagine the emotional distress that that causes.”

He said most skeptics — including some who have argued with him on Facebook — are converted to believers when they get sick themselves. And he is starting to hear fewer people dismiss the virus entirely since the president was diagnosed.

“It is unfortunate that the president has contracted the disease, but it is difficult for groups who support the president to be out there saying it doesn’t exist,” he said.

But he also said he