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Health care workers say they're facing verbal and physical abuse amid spread of COVID misinformation

States reconsider mask mandates as COVID cases fall
States reconsider mask mandates as COVID cases fall 03:26

It's a far cry from the days when health care workers were hailed as heroes. Health care workers in Georgia say there's a flood of aggression directed at them with each COVID wave. 

Dr. Lily Henson, the CEO of Piedmont Henry Hospital near Atlanta, said she worries for the safety of her staff. 

"Every day I read about reports in which my staff are either verbally or physically abused," Henson told CBS News. "We've ensured that we have public safety officers throughout the hospital." 

Just 47% of Henry County residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Health — much lower than the 64% who are fully vaccinated nationwide. 

"There's a widespread perception in our community that COVID is a hoax, that it's being overblown by the media," respiratory therapist Steven Wasson told CBS News. 

Dr. Gregory Evans said health care workers regularly have "emotionally tense" conversations with families. Verbal attacks toward them include "accusations of why we aren't giving certain medications that they may have researched on the internet," Evans told CBS News. 

The spread of misinformation on social media about treatments for COVID has helped fuel the attacks. 

"Day in and day out they ask for these therapies that have not even shown to be effective," such as ivermectin, Henson said. 

When hospitals are full of patients that don't trust science, it's a dagger to morale, Henson added. 

"We get this threat that says, you know, 'If my loved one dies, it's your fault.' That's really heartbreaking," she said. 

Asked what she would say to those who promote the spread of misinformation, Henson replied: "They have on their conscience, the lives of these patients."

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