Coronavirus Social: N95 Mask Theft Draws Sympathy, Outrage on Reddit

Liz Neporent

April 03, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

No one likes a thief, misinformation, or unwanted email. Today on social media, users made that perfectly clear.

ER Robbed by Mask Bandit

A Reddit user who identifies as a nurse and goes by "PavonineLuck" left an angry post on the subreddit /r/medicine over a theft of N95 masks from her hospital's emergency department.

In a message entitled, "Someone stole most of the N95s from our ER," the nurse wrote, "I'm so frustrated and angry. We had our N95's carefully stashed in a back office behind a locked door and over the weekend someone used a key to get in and steal literally hundreds of masks. I get it if someone is scared and snags a box. But stealing hundreds means you're likely just trying to make a quick buck. It's disheartening. How are we supposed to treat people if someone (likely someone that works in the ER because we are the ones who knew where they were) is stealing our necessary materials? Has this kind of stuff been happening to anyone else?"

More than 250 responses expressed outrage and condolences for the theft, with many adding their own stories of missing masks, gowns, and hand sanitizer. A few suggested the masks could have been "borrowed by another department," but most said they believed the PPEs were purloined for resale.

Although a few Redditors had suggestions for purchasing new supplies, most acknowledged that replacements would be hard to come by, at least quickly.

"...find some local Facebook groups for your city and post about the theft and ask for donations. Recruit a few other people from your ER to comment on the post or make their own. Explain the theft, explain the urgent need, and ask for anyone to donate masks," one Redditor suggested.

You can read the entire thread here.

On TV, One Doc Tells It Like It Is

Rishi Desai, MD — a former CDC epidemiologist and current chief medical officer of Osmosis medical education — appeared on Martha MacCallum's nightly Fox News show earlier this week to discuss the US's coronavirus response.

He did not mince words, and Twitter took note.

MacCallum began the interview by stating that there are millions of coronavirus tests available. "But what we don't have is that pinprick blood test that you can get at your doctor in 15 minutes," she told the audience.

Desai shook his head vigorously as McCallum spoke and immediately shot back with a fact check. "We knew this was coming, we knew it was a respiratory disease, we knew it was person-to-person," Desai said, glaring directly into the camera. "Why is it this week that the FDA finally approved the new Abbott lab testing…."

Desai finished up by noting that the US and South Korea both reported a confirmed case of coronavirus on the same day, January 19th, but the trajectory of the infection has been very different, owing to a weak response by the US government. As soon as he finished his blunt assessment, MacCullum abruptly ended the interview.

The clip immediately went viral on Twitter, and "Rishi Desai" instantly became a global trending topic on Twitter.

Most of the 10,000-plus comments on Twitter were in support of Desai telling it like it is.

"My new favorite person, Dr. Rishi Desai," tweeted Kelly Shanahan, MD.


Enough With the Emails

Nearly all states are now under some version of "shelter in place," but that hasn't deterred pharma reps from making sales calls to doctors. Only now, instead of going door to door, they're sending a flood of emails.

One physician who was displeased with the unwanted electronic intrusions decided to clap back with a response of his own.

"I have generated a #copypasta asking every pharma emailer to a) deliver #PPE immediately and b) restrict all emails except for individual patient mission critical data," Craig Gedye, MD, a British medical oncologist tweeted.

The term "copypasta" predates Twitter. A mash-up of the words "copy" and "paste," the slang term first came into use on Internet message boards around 2006 to refer to a block of text that has been repeated multiple times in different places as a kind of inside joke savvy users play on those who aren't in the know.

Gedye outlined his lengthy copypasta in an eight-string tweet and encouraged others to pick up the language and send it in their own replies to pharma reps.

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at or @ lizzyfit on Twitter.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.