A leaked Zoom conference reveals a doctor questioning how to increase the count of COVID-19 patient numbers on the hospital’s dashboard report.

The media outlet National File said it obtained the recording from an “internal source” at the Novant Health System that includes New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.

National File posted the video on its Twitter feed on Sept. 10.

National File and other local media outlets that reported on the leak identified the people in the video as Mary Kathryn Rudyk, a physician at the medical center, who is asking Carolyn Fisher, the hospital’s director of marketing, how to inflate the number of people classified as COVID-19 patients for the purpose of generating fear in the unvaccinated.

“I think we have to be more blunt, we have to be more forceful—we have to say something coming out—if you don’t get vaccinated, you know you are going to die,” Rudyk said in the video. “Let’s just be really blunt to these people.”

The video begins with Fisher explaining how her department is communicating “meaningful numbers”—the percentage of the unvaccinated, vaccinated, and percentage of deaths in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)—to the public.

Rudyk then asked how post-COVID cases can be included in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19.

“My feeling at this point in time is that maybe we need to be completely a little bit more scary for the public,” Rudyk said. “There are many people still hospitalized that we’re considering post-COVID, but we are not counting in those numbers, so how do we include those post-COVID people in the numbers of patients we have in the hospital?”

Fisher asked if she meant every patient who has been in the hospital “since the beginning of COVID?”

Rudyk answered, “Well, that are still in, and that’s something I can take to someone else, but I think those are important numbers: the patients that are still in the hospital, that are off the COVID floor, but still are occupying the hospital for a variety of reasons.”

Also on the Zoom conference call was Shelbourn Stevens, president of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, who said those patients are classified as “recovered.”

“But I do think, from our standpoint, we would still consider them a COVID patient because they’re still healing,” Stevens said.

Rudyk said she thinks those patients need to be “highlighted as well, because once they’re off isolation, they drop from the COVID numbers,” prompting Stevens to say that they can later talk offline about “how we can run that up to marketing.”

Novant Health Response

In response to questions asking for confirmation on if people in the video were employees of New Hanover Regional Medical Center and what the context of the video was, a spokesperson for Novant Health told The Epoch Times that staff involved in the excerpt of the video are seeing the “highest levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths so far in this pandemic, despite having safe and effective vaccines widely available.”

“This was a frank discussion among medical and communications professionals on how we can more accurately convey the severity and seriousness of what’s happening inside of our hospitals and throughout our communities,” the spokesperson said. “Specifically, the data we have been sharing does not include patients who remain hospitalized for COVID-19 complications even though they are no longer on COVID-19 isolation, so it does not provide a complete picture of the total impact of COVID-19 on our patients and on our hospitals.”

The hospital continues to be concerned with misinformation, the spokesperson said, and that it strives “to be transparent and tell the whole story.”

Changing Narratives

Among various narratives that have been altered regarding treatment and reporting on COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently changed the definition of the vaccine.

From 2015 to 2021, the definition of a vaccine, according to the CDC, was “a product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease,” with the definition of vaccination being “the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.”

Dropping the word “immunity,” the definition was changed to a “preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases,” with vaccination being defined as “the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.”

The American Medical Association also produced a document for health care professionals in 2020 that provided a chart for swapping words such as “hospitalization rates” with “deaths,” “Operation Warp Speed” with “standard process,” and “science-based” with “fact-based” (pdf).

Misinformation Versus Disinformation

Misinformation is defined as a statement of untrue information, which can be an error or a false statement, while disinformation is a deliberate attempt to create a false narrative using media outlets and staged incidents, that often utilize some truth, to manufacture a fabricated reality.

Both words have been used interchangeably in various media outlets.

The WRAL media outlet said in its report on the leak that Novant Health’s response debunked “rumors that the hospital was inaccurately reporting coronavirus hospitalizations to mislead the public.”

However, regarding Rudyk’s direct question on how numbers can be changed, making conclusions on what is misinformation or disinformation is open to interpretation.

Meiling Lee and Joshua Philipp contributed to this report.

Matt McGregor


Matt McGregor covers news from North and South Carolina for The Epoch Times.

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