Their neighbors called COVID a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them?

Conspiracy theories about the pandemic and lies recited on social media — or at White House news conferences — had penetrated deep into their community. When refrigerated trailers were brought in to relieve local hospitals’ overflowing morgues, people said they were stage props. Agitated and unmasked relatives stood outside the ICU insisting that their intubated relatives only had the flu. Many believed the doctors and nurses hailed elsewhere for their sacrifices were conspiring to make money by falsifying covid-19 diagnoses.

Boucher and her colleagues were pained by those attacks — and infuriated by them. Unlike their exhaustion, that anger rarely showed on their faces, but it was often there: as they scrolled Facebook to see local ministers saying God was greater than any virus, or stood in line with unmasked grocery shoppers who joked loudly about the covid hoax...

Commenters speculated that the syringe might not have actually contained any vaccine. Others said she must be getting kickbacks from Pfizer. Boucher returned to her crowded ICU knowing that to some in her community, her vaccination was not a turning point and she was not a hero. She was just another part of the hoax.

“You’re living this reality that people don’t understand, and there’s nothing you can say that will convince them,” Boucher, 40, would later explain. “They just say you’re lying.”