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Reno doctor refutes Trump’s claim that photo of COVID medical unit was fake

Updated December 1, 2020 - 2:49 pm

WASHINGTON — A Reno critical-care physician on Tuesday refuted President Donald Trump’s claim that a photograph the doctor tweeted and remarks he made about treating dying coronavirus patients were “fake.”

“It is not fake. It is very real,” ICU doctor Jacob Keeperman said of the photograph of himself wearing a surgical gown and mask after working his first week in the COVID ICU. The photo showed him standing in a parking garage that Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno converted into a medical unit for COVID-19 patients in mid-November because of rising coronavirus caseloads.

On Sunday, Keeperman posted the photograph on Twitter and wrote: “With 5 deaths in the last 32 hours, everyone is struggling to keep their head-up. Stay strong.”

On Monday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak retweeted Keeperman’s post as he thanked the doctor and other first responders for working “selflessly on behalf of all of us.”

Then NetworkinVegas.com, which dubbed the Democratic governor “Adolph Sisolak” after he issued a mask mandate, responded with a tweet that claimed: “Here is the fake Nevada parking garage hospital picture that our moron governor tweeted, proving it’s all a scam. No patients, folded up beds, wrapped up equipment that’s never been used! They spent millions on this scam and never seen a single patient in this fake hospital!”

Trump retweeted NetworkinVegas.com’s post Tuesday morning and equated the “fake” picture with “fake election results in Nevada,” which he lost by 2.4 percentage points.

“I was absolutely stunned,” Keeperman told the Review-Journal. “I thought that my initial tweet was intended to truly be a thank you to all the health care workers, all of my teammates,” the technicians, the cleaners and others at Renown.

Keeperman said the photograph in the hospital garage was “taken the day we were opening that space, just prior to the first patient arriving.” He said he would never take a photograph of a patient.

“I want to say it’s unbelievable to me how something like that can be polarized and politicized,” Keeperman added, recalling how he had to pronounce those five COVID patients dead and call their loved ones.

There were 42 COVID patients in the garage Tuesday, according to Renown Health.

In a statement Tuesday, Sisolak took issue with Trump’s tweet, saying “enough is enough.”

“His consistent misleading rhetoric on COVID-19 is dangerous and reckless, and today’s implication that Renown’s alternate care site is a ‘fake hospital’ is among the worst examples we’ve seen,” Sisolak said. “It is unconscionable for him to continue to spread lies and sow distrust at a time when all Americans should be united during this historic public health crisis.”

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve joined in Sisolak’s outrage and said in a statement that Trump “should put the phone down, get off the golf cart and come down to our hospitals and see for himself the reality which he blatantly chooses to not face.”

Trump and Sisolak have sparred repeatedly over the governor’s social distancing orders and the integrity of Nevada’s elections.

The White House had no response Tuesday for the Review-Journal.

On Tuesday, the governor tweeted again to ask “all leaders throughout Nevada — regardless of political affiliation — to join me in condemning the President’s attacks on the integrity of our healthcare workers.”

This is not the first time Trump has retweeted a post from a dubious Twitter handle that made unsubstantiated claims.

“I don’t think he has any particular insights into demand on hospitals,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, offered as he questioned Trump’s frequent time on Twitter.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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