Coronavirus Social: Healthcare Stands Up to COVID-19 Protesters

Liz Neporent

April 21, 2020

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

Nurses took a stand in Denver, a healthcare worker lost his sense of smell, a photographer captured a moving tribute at a New York City hospital ― and it all played out on social media.

Healthcare Workers Push Back Against Protesters

Protesters with anti-lockdown signs clashed with frontline healthcare workers in scrubs this past weekend.

A small group of Denver healthcare workers stood their ground in the middle of a busy street to block hundreds of angry demonstrators, who object to Gov. Jared Polis' stay-at-home order, from advancing on the capitol building, according to the local independent news site, Westword. Similar protests have been happening in Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states.

Photojournalist Alyson McClaran captured the tense Denver confrontation in a series of photos she posted to Twitter. Other users posted video clips of the encounter showing an angry, mostly mask-free crowd screaming and honking their car horns as the masked-up nurses remained planted in place until police arrived to diffuse the situation.

Westword reporter Chase Woodruff also described the scene in a series of tweets, saying in one, "[Healthcare workers] say they've been treating COVID patients for weeks. Today most of the people driving by have been 'very aggressive,' they say. I've been standing here for a few minutes and already seen two people get in their faces."

Similar protests and counterprotests have been happening in Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states, according to the Guardian.

Healthcare Worker Goes Nose Blind in Advance of Diagnosis

A thread on the /r/medicine community on Reddit began with a discussion about a healthcare worker who had been working with COVID-19 patients over the past month and noticed that he was suddenly able to eat cooked peas and tomatoes, foods he usually disliked. This got him curious, so he started sniffing items like soap, cut onions, and ginger without registering any scent. Realizing he had complete anosmia, he called his employee health service for a coronavirus test, which came back positive.

Loss of taste and smell is a known side effect of the coronavirus, especially in mild to moderate cases. Some participants in the thread weighed in with similar experiences. Could a daily smell and taste check be a viable self-test for the coronavirus, one user wondered.

As Medscape Medical News reported last week, COVID-19 may cause other more serious neurologic complications as well, but the mechanisms are unclear. "Some of the best evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can target the nervous system is the finding of anosmia, which could be due to viral invasion of the olfactory bulb. But the loss of smell could also be immune-mediated due to antibodies and may not necessarily represent neurotropism," Felicia Chow, MD, MAS, a neuro–infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told Medscape Medical News.

A Photographic Tribute in New York City

Inspired by other places around the world, city-wide clapping began in New York City a few weeks ago, with word spreading quickly on social media. Each night at 7:00 PM, New Yorkers in all five boroughs lean out of windows, balconies, and fire escapes to send a cheer of thanks and encouragement to the healthcare teams working to save patients from coronavirus.

One such moment, at the entrance of Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan's Upper East Side, was captured by professional photographer David Plakke a few evenings ago.

"I was outside shooting people and their dogs when I looked over and saw people lining up along the hospital entrance," Plakke told Medscape Medical News. "Everyone kept applauding as doctors, nurses, janitors ― every healthcare worker -- came through the doors.

"Looking into their tired eyes, you see how these are just people doing their jobs and COVID-19 is like a gut punch. I kept shooting through my tears," Plakke said.

Plakke posted an eight-picture photo essay of the experience on Facebook and Instagram. He says the emotional connection he felt between the hospital workers and the neighborhood reminded him of the weeks after 9/11 when the entire city seemed to share a common bond.

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.

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