Mental Health

Pandemic Naysayers Sneak into Hospital to See if ICU Is Full

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People line up outside Elmhurst Hospital to get tested due to coronavirus outbreak on March 24, 2020 in Queens, New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

 

A Provo, Utah hospital has increased its security precautions after conspiracy theorists tried to sneak into the intensive care unit to see if it was full.  

Kyle Hansen, administrator for Utah Valley Hospital, told the Provo City Council Thursday that five people, including a few with video cameras, have attempted to get inside the ICU because they wanted to see if reports that it was full were true.   

“We have individuals trying to sneak into the hospital to visualize and videotape this themselves,” Mr. Hansen told the council, according to NBC-affiliate KLS, located in Salt Lake City. 

Mr. Hansen added that so far no one has been successful in breaching hospital security. Nevertheless, the hospital has changed its security patrols and has asked the staff to keep an eye on entrances.

“You really can only get in if you’re here for an appointment yourself or you have to be listed in a log that we track as a designated visitor for a patient,” Mr. Hansen said. “But we’ve had some people get pretty creative in how they’ve lied about coming in for an appointment or other things.”

Hansen said that the hospital is also dealing with an inordinate number of daily phone-calls from people asking, “is your ICU really full,” putting a strain on the staff, according to the KLS report.

The hospital’s fifth floor is shared by ICU patients and patients with Covid-19. As of Thursday, Utah Valley Hospital had 45 Covid-19 patients, KLS reported.

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Valley’s parent company, released a statement that said attempts by conspiracy theorists to get into the ICU were uncommon but take away from the care for those who need it.

 Utah Valley Hospital, a teaching facility, is a 395-bed, tertiary (highly technical, offering specialized care) hospital.

Questions regarding the who and why as they relate to conspiracy theorists have been of great interest to psychologists and neuroscientists alike. Political psychologist Joanne Miller, PhD, earlier this year published work that analyzed the responses of 3,019 conspiracy theorists to statements connected to the pandemic’s start. The allowed responses were definitely, probably, probably not, and definitely not.

The explanations included statements like, “The coronavirus isn’t real,” “Democratic governors are not distributing coronavirus tests to make President Trump look bad," “The virus is a biological weapon intentionally (or unintentionally) released by China” and “The media are exaggerating the seriousness to make President Trump look bad.” Most respondents, at 20%  believed the latter explanation. Explanations involving the Chinese came in second, at 19%. Most of the respondents believed more than one conspiracy was in play; 30% believed at least six.

The motives that propel a conspiracy theorist’s belief include: denial of the official explanation of an event; the desire to protect how he or she views the world; and the theorist’s lack of both certainty and power. It is the lack of uncertainty that is the glue, she wrote.

In short, the more uncertainty a person is feeling, the more contrived is the belief system.

Earlier this month, Bruce Miller, MD, Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, discussed conspiracy theories from a different angle. In JAMA, he wrote that conspiracy theories are born because those who subscribe to such beliefs do not have a basic understanding of science. He cited one study of 9654 US adults. In this study, 48% of the respondents who had a high school education or less “believed there was some truth to the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was planned.” For those who cannot interpret data, they may look to others whose feelings are similar. “Conspiracy theories may bring security and calm,” he wrote.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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