Cardiologist Targeted by Social Distancing Snitch Pushes Back

A Wisconsin man joined the ranks of what some reports say are many people nationwide snitching on those in their communities for not following arbitrary orders of wearing masks in public and social distancing.

Kevin Rusch, according to the New York Times, saw a photo of a cardiologist from his town, Dr. David Murdock, at a recent protest, not social distancing or wearing a mask, and Rusch promptly jumped to action against the doctor.

The New York Times included Murdock’s story in a round-up of tattletales across the country but left out what Murdock said about his experience and instead highlighted the man who felt it was appropriate to shame the doctor on social media:

Kevin Rusch was at home on a recent Sunday evening scrolling through Facebook when he saw a photo that shocked him: A man with an American flag bandanna wrapped around his head stood at a rally demanding Wisconsin lift orders that had shuttered schools and businesses.

That man was David Murdock, a cardiologist from his hometown, Wausau. And, like the hundreds of other people at the rally, Dr. Murdock was maskless and did not appear to be practicing social distancing. In one photo, Dr. Murdock’s arm was slung around a priest, with the two holding a sign that read, “We are an essential service.”

“His picture popped up, and when I saw it, I was furious,” Mr. Rusch said. “I thought, this guy is out here hugging people and rubbing elbows without P.P.E. on and he’s actively seeing patients.”

Rusch shared photos of the doctor online, and he and others contacted Murdock’s hospital, which resulted in his taking a one-week leave — even though the same recommended mitigation advice includes isolation for two weeks to determine if one has been infected with the virus while in a public setting.

“Dr. Murdock became one of the most public casualties of a growing crowd of social distancing vigilantes, Americans frustrated by fellow citizens violating government orders to wear masks, close nonessential businesses and refrain from gathering in groups,” the Times reported.

Murdock later explained that he added a week’s vacation to his time away from his hospital job so that he and his family could decide whether or not he will return to that job.

The Times reported that “a segment of the United States has turned informant, calling the police, public health authorities and the employers of people they believe are violating social-distancing decrees or stay-at-home orders.”

The Times describes snitching on your neighbor as “citizen action” and contrasted that to the freedom rallies taking place around the country.

But Murdock has a very different perspective about his experience than what the Times reported.

In the lengthy post on Facebook, which includes his 33-year career as a research cardiologist, Murdock explained how he was in favor of the state’s first stay-at-home order, but then circumstances changed and he felt extending the April 24 expiration of the stay-at-home order in many parts of the state was unnecessary and even harmful:

As time went by, however, the danger of COVID in our area was much less than we had expected. Indeed, this was true of most of the areas I provided cardiovascular care. Nevertheless, I was absolutely behind the governor’s first Safer at Home order. This initial Safer at Home order allowed us time to prepare for the expected surge. The surge of COVID infections never materialized in our area.

Murdock included a long list of his concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and how leaders in this country have handled it:

The effect of the first Safer at Home on our local economy and our local health care system has been devastating. I saw firsthand how this order was adversely impacting people with medical needs. The hospital system shut down 16 primary care clinics. Think of that, 16 CLINICS COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN. More recently the system announced numerous additional furloughs and cut work hours for nurses and support staff. All this to hopefully avoid the total financial collapse of our local health care system. This is not isolated to our region. These events are happening all over the country. Millions of healthcare workers are effected.

Meanwhile, health care within our community has suffered. The shutdown of clinics has reduced access to healthcare. People are afraid to come into our office or the emergency room. Cancers are not being detected or operated on, dental care is not being provided, severe orthopedic issues are not being addressed, and some specialties–such as ENT, dermatology, chiropractic care, and some surgical specialties–are being decimated. It became increasingly clear that the health care system was near collapse. This was not due to the virus overwhelming the system, but due to a government-imposed restriction on “nonessential” services. This restriction has caused horrific damage to patient care. I certainly felt, as did many others within our community, that the drastic reduction in health care was worse than the minimal effect we were seeing from the virus. Interestingly, publications in prestigious medical journals are now attesting to this fact. A poor economy has morbidity and lethality too.

Murdock said at the rally he heard stories from his fellow Americans about how they were suffering being isolated and out of work.

“It was hard for these individuals to accept that they were deemed non-essential when it was their only means of survival,” Murdock wrote.

And while Murdock prayed with people at the rally, his detractors were making their own plans:

Upon returning home, I learned of some of the comments made on social media about me and the orchestrated slander of my name and reputation.

But most disturbing was the vulgarity involved and a clear sense of an orchestrated political hit job. There were words said using language that I haven’t heard since high school. They vandalized my home by scattering feces on the front steps prompting me to file a police report. They also mocked Christianity. Nobody should have to put up with this evil. No human has the right to inflict this pain on others.

Murdock concluded that it cannot be a crime to practice our constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and free speech and that some of the most meaningful movements in our country were inspired by practicing those rights, including the civil rights movement.

Murdock thanked people for the outpouring of support he has received, not including the Times, which pointed out that it is conservatives who want their freedom and constitutional rights back and “liberals” who are calling for “restraint.”

“Some liberals said they thought that calling out violators was a civic duty and a matter of public health,” the Times reported.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.



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