- A nurse’s viral video featured the overwhelming sounds of a packed ICU.
- Rice was contacted by the California Department of Health to use her video as a statewide PSA.
- Insider spoke with two people who got vaccinated after watching the viral video.
A recent viral TikTok starts with a question: “Did you guys know that COVID has a sound?”
Mae Rice, a travel intensive-care-unit nurse, seated for a rare moment during her overnight shift, stares into the camera before the screen goes black. Then comes the beeping — loud and unremitting. These alarms go off when a vital sign has reached a critical limit, the overlaid text explains.
They can’t be silenced for more than 10 seconds, and with the Georgia hospital’s ICU at capacity, they’d blare nonstop all night. Most of the 30 patients Rice was caring for at the moment wouldn’t survive the next few days, she wrote in the video. All were unvaccinated.
The video, posted under Rice’s handle, @nurse_sushi, initially doesn’t seem remarkable in the sea of COVID-19 content on TikTok. But days after she posted the video on August 19, her comments were full of people saying the video had motivated them to get vaccinated.
“The vast majority of people, they’ve never heard that sound before,” Rice told Insider, referring to the beeping noise in her video.
The constant alarms began a few months ago as Delta surged, and she was surprised at how much they seemed to scare people. “It was just holding your head in your hands, and you’re just like, ‘Why won’t it stop? It needs to stop. Make the sound stop,'” she said.
For many, watching Rice’s video conveyed a sensory understanding of the distress of COVID-flooded ICUs in a way that numbers hadn’t been able to.
Some of the TikTok commenters affected enough by the video’s emotional edge to seek out vaccinations shared their thoughts with Insider.
The video inspired people to get vaccinated
Sarah Draissi, a 21-year-old hospitality worker in Philadelphia, said she’d put in a lot of effort to learn about COVID-19 online. But by August, she was still unvaccinated.
Though she prided herself on her ability to sort misinformation from fact, the sheer volume of misinformation she’d seen about the COVID-19 vaccine made her wonder whether some of it had to be rooted in truth.
“Healthcare workers on TikTok, usually they’re in their house, and they’re just getting off a really long shift, and they’re really tired,” Draissi said. Seeing them outside the hospital wasn’t enough to sway her, she said.
Draissi was at her family’s home in Florida when she saw Rice’s video. Immediately, she made an appointment to get vaccinated upon her return to Philadelphia. “I went on my phone, and I made an appointment for the day my flight landed,” she said.
“What really stuck with me is when she said, ‘There’s nothing that we can do for these people,'” Draissi said. “It just made me feel dumb, to be very honest. Because there is something that I can do while I’m healthy and not in an ICU bed.”
Shae Garbe, a 23-year-old from Wisconsin, procrastinated getting a vaccine before seeing the video in bed one morning. “It’s easy to ignore something when it isn’t right in front of your face, but that video was so immersive,” Garbe said.
When she saw that Rice’s patients were all unvaccinated, she froze. “I watched it a few times on repeat, and then I grabbed my keys. I got vaccinated a half-hour later,” Garbe said.
Both Draissi and Garbe have since shared the video with friends and family.
Rice said she was contacted by the California Department of Health about a week after posting the video. She’s agreed to let it run her TikTok as a statewide public service announcement in October and November.
“I hear it when I get off work. I hear it while I’m driving. I hear it while I’m showering. I hear it while I’m laying down to go to sleep,” Rice said of the telemetry alarm. Last month, she replaced her coffee maker because it reminded her of the alarm’s sound.