Video shows Novant staff brainstorming how to make COVID ‘a little bit more scary for the public’

Participants discussed counting recovered ‘post-COVID’ hospital patients in COVID totals

A physician is shown at the rebranding of New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C. Photo via Novant Health

RALEIGH — Leaked video of a conference call between a marketing director and doctors at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) went viral over the past weekend.

The video features three individuals, Dr. Mary Rudyk, former chief medical officer for NHRMC; Carolyn Fisher, NHRMC director of marketing; and Shelbourn Stevens, president of NHRMC and director of Novant’s coastal market.


NHRMC consists of around 20 hospitals and health clinics offering services to people in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

The video begins with Fisher talking about COVID-19 case numbers and data while also stressing the percentage of unvaccinated hospitalizations.

Rudyk responded by saying she feels the hospital’s messaging on COVID case numbers needs to be “a little bit more scary for the public.”

She then went on to propose inflating those numbers by including patients she described as “post-COVID” in the hospital’s case count, which she elaborated to mean patients who are no longer on the COVID floor but are still hospitalized “for a variety of reasons.”

“There are many people still hospitalized that we’re considering post-COVID, but they’re not counted in those numbers,” Rudyk said. “So how do we include those post-COVID people in the numbers of the patients we have in the hospital?”

Stevens noted what Rudyk was describing were “recovered patients,” which are those persons who were removed from the patient count of a hospital after testing negative.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services dashboard, persons that have been hospitalized or tested positive for COVID-19 but are no longer positive are considered “recovered.” As of Sept. 6, over 1.2 million North Carolinians are presumed recovered.

Rudyk also suggested hospitals need to become “more scary” in their messaging by implying bypassing the vaccine means a person will die.

“So, I just want to say we have to be more blunt; we have to be more forceful; we have to see something coming out: ‘If you don’t get vaccinated, you know you’re going to die,’” said Rudyk. “I mean, let’s just be really blunt with these people.”

After the video went viral, NHRMC released a statement, characterizing the video as “a frank discussion” about communicating the “severity and seriousness” of conditions inside hospitals. The statement also said NHRMC is “concerned with the amount of misinformation” in the community.

“The team members involved in this excerpt of an internal meeting are seeing the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths so far in this pandemic — despite having safe and effective vaccines widely available. We continue to be concerned with the amount of misinformation in our communities and consistently strive for more ways to be transparent and tell the whole story. The continued rise of hospitalizations makes it evident that we have more work to do to reach our communities with these messages.”

NCDHHS updates recovery data weekly but still posts case counts, testing, hospitalizations, and deaths by day.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 14, 65% of the total population 12 years of age or older has received at least one dose of vaccine.