Health-Care Workers Battling COVID … and Misinformation


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While some San Diego County leaders said COVID-19 cases across the region have hit a plateau, for now, some hospitals are reporting a recent uptick in cases.

Meanwhile, health-care workers told NBC 7 that they worry that cases will only continue to increase in the next few weeks if more people don't get vaccinated.

With students returning to the classroom. the Labor Day weekend approaching and many county resident ineligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Ghazala Sharieff told NBC 7 that she’s concerned cases will continue to climb.

Sharieff, who is the chief medical officer for Acute Care and Clinical Excellence at Scripps Health, has been tracking COVID-19 cases at the five Scripps Health Hospitals. She's calling the local COVID-19 situation "the pandemic of the unvaccinated."

Sharieff shared with NBC 7 data she collected between June 1 and Aug. 29 of patients aged 55 and under, which showed that Scripps Health treated 321 unvaccinated COVID-19 patients and only 10 were vaccinated. When it comes to "average" COVID-related intensive-care unit admissions, unvaccinated patients spent 13 days in the ICU. Not one vaccinated patient 55 and under was admitted into the ICU, Sharieff said.

Despite the data proving COVID-19 vaccines are effective, Sharieff said people are still choosing not to get vaccinated. Two elements of the problem: People who doubt health care workers’ expertise, and misinformation.

“We heard from a nurse last week who said, ‘This is so difficult,' " Sharieff said. "Sometimes people will come in, they have all the COVID symptoms, the staff will tell them, ‘You have COVID,' and they call them liars. And we’ve never had this before."

Sharieff said some health-care workers no longer feel supported, and are burned out and have left the health-care field.

“There’s a lot of staff who’ve decided not to continue in health care -- even the traveling agencies don’t have staff to send us,” said Sharieff, adding that it’s a problem across the region, not just specific to Scripps Health. “We want to be there if you get in a car accident or something happens to you, but with these cases keeping going up, we’re back to where we were back in January.”

In an effort to combat misinformation and encourage more people to get vaccinated, Chair Nathan Fletcher introduced a new policy, which would declare COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis. He's expected to present the resolution to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. If it receives support, Fletcher said the county will allocate more resources to educate the public, including the launch of a new informational website dedicated to COVID-19 facts. 

“[Misinformation] is literally costing people their lives,” Fletcher said.

The policy came to the forefront after a heated board meeting earlier in August. Members of the public shared incorrect comments like; “There is no proof that the COVID-19 shots administered are safe or effective.”

NBC 7's Artie Ojeda shares clips of heated comments made by the public at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

“I think we need to call it what it is, and we need to invest the resources and equip the public with the truth,” Fletcher said. “Nothing we’re doing is going to infringe on anyone’s ability to say whatever they want to say, but we have to say what we have an obligation to say, which is: These statements are dangerous, they’re untrue and they will hurt your health.” 

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