Covid Controversy Checks In To ABC’s ‘General Hospital’ When Cast Clash Over Vax Mandate

Covid and its real-life controversies have checked in to ABC’s General Hospital, seeming to spark a cast rift that’s playing out on social media and prompting star and vaccine mandate opponent Ingo Rademacher to lash out at the “morons,” “dictators,” and “horrible, horrible” people calling for his firing.

All this as another longtime star of the show with “Hospital” in its title, Steve Burton, recently tested positive for Covid-19 and says he contracted the virus at work, while another cast member, Nancy Lee Grahn, is calling on SAG-AFTRA to address the issue of working “on a set with unmasked, unvaccinated actors.”

The issue – and considerable anger – became public earlier this month when Grahn, who has played Alexis Davis on General Hospital since 1996, tweeted the alarm: “I work on a set with unmasked, unvaccinated actors, because my union thus far @sagaftra has allowed this. Full stop.” The August 12 tweet urged both Fran Drescher and Matthew Modine, currently running for SAG-AFTRA president, to address the issue.

The following day, Burton, who has played Jason Morgan on the soap for most of the last 30 years, posted an Instagram message announcing the cancelation of planned August dates of his East Coast comedy tour with GH co-star Bradford Anderson due to Burton’s positive Covid test results. “I was exposed at work,” Burton said in an Instagram video, offering no more details except to say he felt fine and was asymptomatic.

Last weekend, Twitter users began retweeting social media posts by Rademacher that seemed to endorse and publicize an Aug. 21 Santa Monica “No Vaccine Passport Rally.” Soon enough, #FireIngo began to trend.

The hashtag apparently was a last straw for Rademacher, who yesterday posted a vitriolic Instagram video (with no small amount of misinformation), excoriating the hashtaggers as “bigots” and “morons,” and misleadingly claiming that since the CDC says vaccines have only a 95% effectiveness rate, the vaccine “was never supposed to stop the spread and is never going to stop the spread of this virus.”

What the CDC actually says: “Unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern: The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus. Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) less often than unvaccinated people. People infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit the virus to others. CDC is continuing to assess data on whether fully vaccinated people with asymptomatic breakthrough infections can transmit the virus.”

Rademacher also falsely claims in the video that people who have already had Covid are better protected against the virus than vaccinated people.

Again, what the CDC actually says: “Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 because: Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19; Vaccination helps protect you even if you’ve already had COVID-19; Evidence is emerging that people get better protection by being fully vaccinated compared with having had COVID-19. One study showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than 2 times as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again.”

Rademacher, who has played Jasper “Jax” Jacks on General Hospital since 1996, likely won’t be swayed by pro-vax arguments from the CDC or anyone else. He begins his video by saying, “So I’m going to address all of the morons [with] that hashtag FireIngo. I really dislike you at this point. I think that you’re bigots and I think you know it. To do something like that to another person really characterizes who you are. You’re a horrible, horrible person, first of all…If you were in charge of this country you’d be a dictator.”

The actor took particular umbrage at the calls for his firing, saying, “You can disagree but what you can’t do is go to my boss and say fire this person…now you become a bigot.”

Rademacher, who is also an L.A. County lifeguard, says in the video that despite his difference of opinion with the FireIngo hashtaggers, he would nonetheless rescue them if they were drowning. “I would save your life. Know that. That’s the kind of person I am. Maybe I’m just a better person than you are, that’s probably true.”

The actor ends his video by suggesting a new hashtag – #ApologizetoIngo – and said that his critics are “dragging down the human race.”

Two days before Rademacher posted his video, his GH co-star Grahn had her own message on mandates: “The reason there needs to be a vaccine mandate is because there are ppl who refuse to get vaccinated because they believe they somehow know more than the leading experts, the best scientists in the world, who are united in their findings that this vaccine is safe and necessary to lower our chances of dying or getting serious ill and of causing this for people who can’t be vaccinated.”

SAG-AFTRA and other Hollywood unions last month approved a back-to-work agreement giving studios “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” Zone A, which is the most restrictive of the safe work zones on sets, includes the cast and those who come in contact with them. The agreement will remain in effect through September 30, 2021.

Deadline has reached out to a General Hospital spokesperson for clarification on the soap’s Covid protocols and comment on the cast’s internal disputes but has received no response.