CBS Denies Awareness of Staged COVID-19 Testing Line

May 6, 2020 Updated: May 11, 2020

CBS News said it was removing video footage showing a long line of cars waiting in a COVID-19 testing line after undercover video footage showed nurses saying the line was staged.

The line was at Cherry Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Nurses who spoke to Project Veritas said Cherry Health Director of Quality and Informatics Glenda Walker helped organize workers at the facility into the line after being given a heads up that a CBS News crew was on the way.

“We had no clue that we’re going to have to, like, do fake patients,” one nurse said.

Alison Mauro, another nurse, said the line was a mix of fake and real patients.

“We pretended. There were a couple of real patients, which made it worse,” she said.

testing update
A drive through customer picks up a swab kit at a Rite Aid drive through testing site in Macomb, Mich., on April 21, 2020. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“Apparently the news crew wanted more people in the line because they knew it was scheduled,” Nick Ross, a cleaning site supervisor at the facility, told Project Veritas, a media watchdog.

CBS said in a statement that it “did not stage anything” at the facility.

“These allegations are deeply disturbing. We reached out to Cherry Health to address them immediately. They informed us for the first time that one of their chief officers told at least one staffer to get in the testing line along with real patients,” the outlet told Project Veritas.

“No one from CBS News had any knowledge of this prior to tonight.”

CBS, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, said it was removing the footage from its segment that dealt with Cherry Health.

In an editor’s note added to the story about the segment, CBS stated it “could not verify the authenticity of a scene from one of the testing sites initially featured in this story.”

“At least one staff member of Cherry Health, which operated the testing site in Michigan, may have been in line along with real patients. The story aired last Friday, however, CBS News learned of that possibility Tuesday night, and references to that testing site have been deleted from the video and this accompanying article,” the outlet added.

Tasha Blackmon, president and CEO of Cherry Health, said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times: “Though the Project Veritas report claims the CBS video showing a line of cars was staged; to my knowledge CBS This Morning did not stage any part of their visit, and I did not instruct any of our staff to get in their cars as part of the line of vehicles.”

She said that 34 people who were pre-screened received tests on the day of the CBS interview.

In a follow-up statement to local broadcasters, Cherry Health said an internal investigation uncovered the fact that several staff members were “encouraged to pull their cars up in the testing line to provide a visual backdrop showing how busy the testing site can get.”

“This was done with the intention of protecting patient privacy since many of the patients scheduled for a COVID-19 test on that day declined to be filmed for HIPAA reasons. The individual responsible for this mistake has accepted responsibility and expressed deep remorse for this unfortunate situation,” Blackmon said in the statement.

Epoch Times Photo
Cherry Health CEO Tasha Blackman stands to the left of presidential candidate Joe Biden as he speaks during a campaign stop at Cherry Health—Heart of the City Health Center, in Grand Rapids, Mich., on March 9, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

She claimed that no fake tests have ever been done at the testing site.

“While good faith mistakes were made to protect patient privacy, the manner in which this situation is being portrayed is unfair and inaccurate. Maintaining our integrity as a trusted organization that provides quality care to the underserved people of our communities is our top priority. We are saddened that this has been called into question, but have every confidence that the truth will prevail,” Blackmon said.

The footage was run as part of a segment titled: “Michigan expands coronavirus testing but grapples with supply shortages.” Cherry Health posted a link to the segment on its website. Blackmon told the outlet that her health center was struggling to find enough gowns and N95 masks. Employees had to reuse gowns multiple times, she claimed.

“Our supply of personal protection equipment was at a two-week supply level,” Cherry Health, an independent nonprofit, said in one of its new statement.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke at the center on March 9, appearing with Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

It’s the third time in recent weeks that CBS has had to adjust its reporting on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. After reports appearing to show footage from an Italian hospital being portrayed as one in New York, “CBS This Morning” said it was a mistake.

CBS also adjusted reporting on a woman who said she was a nurse and quit her job after not being protected from the new illness.

The woman said on Facebook before posting the video that she hadn’t worked at a hospital for over a year.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber