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Cherry Health, CBS News accused of staging Coronavirus testing site footage

Project Veritas report details alleged order for staff to fill out waiting line
Posted at 3:17 PM, May 06, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Cherry Health and CBS News are facing accusations they staged long lines at a Coronavirus drive-through testing facility for a news report.

The allegations from Project Veritas says that at least one employee from Cherry Health was told by a superior to get in their car and join the line of people being test for COVID-19 at the Heart of the City Health Center. The Center was one of several locations across the country being featured in a report by CBS News. The piece was published Friday, May 1.

According to the Project Veritas report, one of Cherry Health's directors ordered personnel to enter the line in their vehicles. In undercover videos, the staff claims that swab tests were not being done during the segment's recording to protect the actual patients that were in line.

The report by CBS News focused on the need for medical gowns and N95 masks. On May 6, CBS removed all mention of Cherry Health, and added a note to the story highlighting the questions surrounding the video footage.

In a statment to Project Veritas, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky said:

CBS News did not stage anything at the Cherry Health facility. Any suggestion to the contrary is 100% false. These allegations are alarming. 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. No one from CBS News had any knowledge of this before tonight. They also said that their actions did not prevent any actual patients from being tested. We take the accuracy of our reporting very seriously and we are removing the Cherry Health portion from the piece.
Susan Zirinsky, President of CBS News

Tasha Blackmon, the President and CEO of Cherry Health, also spoke with Project6 Veritas, saying, "We and CBS News had nothing to do with that line."

FOX 17 News reached out to Cherry Health for comment. A spokesperson sent us this statement for Ms. Blackmon:

Cherry Health is fortunate to be recognized nationally for our quality as we continue removing barriers to healthcare to those less fortunate.

Cherry Health’s COVID-19 drive through testing process requires patients to be pre-screened through our hotline to determine who should receive a test. On the day of the CBS interview, 34 pre-screened individuals received tests. To date, we have completed close to 600 COVID-19 tests at our Heart of the City Health Center.

We also shared with CBS This Morning that on the day of their interview, our supply of personal protection equipment was at a two-week supply level.

To my knowledge, CBS This Morning did not stage any part of their visit to our site.
Tasha Blackmon, President and CEO of Cherry Health