On Tuesday, Emily Kaiser, who lives in DC and works at a nonprofit in Silver Spring, was on a routine call with a nurse in CVS’s Accordant program, which is designed to support people with rare and chronic diseases.
As she did in previous check-ins, Kaiser spoke to the nurse about her health and how she was doing. She mentioned how hard things were in the pandemic and expressed feeling socially isolated. The nurse responded with suggestions like doing yoga or meditation. Then, something shifted in the conversation. The nurse, Kaiser says, said she didn’t need to be so worried because “the CDC is lying to us, and doctors are being paid to lie about Covid.” In retelling this exchange to Washingtonian, Kaiser says: “That set off some alarm bells.”
Kaiser then asked if the nurse was referring to the recent conspiracy theory suggesting that only 9,000 people have actually died from the virus. The nurse said yes. “I asked her why she was sharing that information with patients and she immediately got very upset,” says Kaiser. “She said, ‘Oh the media is very negative; I wish the media was telling more positive stories about how most people don’t get very sick and most people recover.'”
Kaiser responded that she knew that information was false, and it was particularly alarming to hear that from a healthcare worker who calls patients who are vulnerable to Covid-19. “She was essentially saying I’d be totally fine if I got it,” says Kaiser. “I was just so shocked that it happened and I just wanted to make sure that she stops telling people that.” Kaiser adds: “It brought up a fear of how many people she’s told that to who have chronic diseases, who might be getting the message that it’s safe to go back to your normal life.”
Kaiser told the nurse she wasn’t comfortable talking to her or using the Accordant program if that was the information they would be sharing. After the call, she complained about the incident to a supervisor who apologized and said she would “follow up” with the nurse.
“Such comments are not in keeping with our comprehensive response to COVID-19, nor our commitment to following the CDC’s guidance,” wrote a CVS representative in a statement to Washingtonian. “We have apologized to our member and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”