On April 28, 2020, Fox & Friends displayed a pair of chyrons that appeared to support conspiracy theories about the coronavirus death toll: “Hospitals get paid more for COVID-19 patients” and “Rpt: Trauma, overdoses added to COVID-19 deaths.” Although when the hosts pushed these ideas, Fox medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel countered them, saying, “I don’t think it’s fraud,” the chyrons themselves pose the risk of spreading misinformation.
“Hospitals get paid more for COVID-19 patients” refers to a provision in the coronavirus aid bill in which Medicare pays hospitals an additional 20% on top of traditional rates to cover the higher costs of COVID-19 treatment.
“Trauma, overdoses added to COVID-19 deaths” reflects the fact that deceased COVID-19 patients are included in the death toll even when they have other acute causes of death. According to the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who was quoted in PolitiFact, this “is not a conspiracy, or any different than what occurs during non-COVID-19 times.”
Much like article headlines, TV chyrons serve as bite-size pieces of information for a consumer who may not read the entire story or watch the entire segment. It’s critically important for chyrons to be as accurate and informative as possible; lazy and incomplete efforts are especially unacceptable during a pandemic.