The CEO of Reno-based Renown Health is speaking out against a tweet President Donald Trump posted Tuesday claiming the COVID-19 surge the health system is experiencing is exaggerated.
Trump shared a tweet from an events website called Network in Vegas claiming that a parking garage Renown Health has transformed to an alternative care site for COVID-19 patients is "fake" and isn't treating any patients. Trump retweeted the caption with the comment: "Fake election results in Nevada, also." The tweet occurred as Nevada and the city of Reno experience a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. According to the state, for the week of Nov. 20, COVID-19 cases grew at a rate of 1.5%, or 1,854 new cases per day. The positivity rate over the 14-day period was 15.8%.
Renown built the makeshift care site, which cost $11 million, this spring to be used when the system experienced such a surge of inpatient COVID-19 cases, more beds would be needed. The health system hasn't had to use the site until a few weeks ago as it sees an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Renown said 41 patients are currently being treated there while 200 patients are being treated for COVID at its hospitals. The alternative care site is used for patients who have been treated in the hospital for COVID-19 but no longer require intensive care and other hospital services. It can hold up to 1,400 patients.
"I sleep better at night knowing we can support the needs of our community," said Dr. Anthony Slonim, CEO of Renown. "Nothing would please me more than never needing to use it (the makeshift site) but unfortunately we are needing to do that."
The tweet used a photo of a critical care physician who posted a selfie at the care site on Twitter along with a message about his experience treating COVID-19 patients.Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, retweeted the physician's tweet, expressing thanks to frontline caregivers.
Sisolak has responded to Trump's tweet, saying in a prepared statement, "Renown Hospital has served as a pillar of strength for the northern Nevada community throughout this pandemic, and especially during this current surge. Every day, their healthcare workers mask up, go to work, and care for Nevadans most in need."
Sisolak added that he calls on all leaders of Nevada to condemn the tweet.
Slonim said Renown was following public health planning practices when it built the makeshift site. The parking garage adjacent to Renown Medical Center has been transformed with plumbing, heating and air conditioning, negative pressure ventilation and beds.
"It's kind of funny for me that you would criticize planning and anticipating a public need like this," Slonim said.
Slonim added he doesn't think the tweet will pose a distraction to Renown's frontline workers. "I think staff come to work every day to do their job and not be intimidated or distracted from the work at hand, which is to care for others," he said.