Health care workers who were once saluted for saving lives in the COVID-19 outbreak are now being issued panic buttons and ditching their scrubs before going out in public to avoid harassment.
Across the country, doctors and nurses who treat COVID-19 patients are dealing with hostility, threats and violence from patients angry over safety rules designed to keep the virus from spreading.
Some hospitals, like Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, are so concerned that they equipped workers with panic buttons. A hospital spokesperson says violent assaults by patients on staff members have tripled in the past year.
A nurse at the hospital, Ashley Blevins, told KYTV-TV in Springfield, Missouri, said the hospital has become overcrowded at times in the past year and a half due to a high number of COVID-19 patients, leading to long wait times.
"They come in here, and they have to sit in here because everywhere's full," Blevins told KYTV. "We have no placements to put anybody, and that's frustrating on the patient. That's frustrating on us, and I think that's increasing a lot of violence towards everyone."
Other hospitals have taken steps to limit the number of public entrances to their facilities.
In Idaho, nurses say they're scared to go to grocery stores unless they've changed out of their scrubs, so they aren't accosted by angry residents.
According to The Associated Press, doctors and nurses at a Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, hospital have been accused of killing patients by grieving family members who don't believe COVID-19 is real, said hospital spokeswoman Caiti Bobbitt. Others have been the subject of hurtful rumors spread by people angry about the pandemic.
"Our health care workers are almost feeling like Vietnam veterans, scared to go into the community after a shift," Bobbitt told the AP.