A rumor inciting Americans to “stock up” on two weeks of supplies, claiming a “mandatory” nationwide quarantine will soon be implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been circulating online. It’s false.
The rumor started as a text message and migrated to social media as a screenshot meme, claiming: “within 48 to 72 Hours… The president will order a two week mandatory quarantine for the nation. Stock up on whatever you guys need to make sure you have a two week supply of everything. Please forward to your network.”
Different versions of the rumor attribute this misinformation to various sources, including “military friends,” the “DC mayor,” and “a physician at the Clev. Clinic.”
Each version is false.
The White House’s National Security Council addressed the claim in a statement on Twitter, saying: “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown.”
President Donald Trump also rejected the idea that his administration is considering a “nationwide lockdown.” When asked about it by a reporter on March 16, Trump said: “We may look at certain areas, certain hot spots as they call them.” But, he added, “at this moment,” they are not considering anything that would affect the whole country.
The day before, Trump had urged Americans not to panic. Following a call with the CEOs of more than a dozen major grocers and food suppliers on March 15, he said that the U.S. supply chains are “powerful” and “[t]here’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies.”
The only thing the rumor gets right is its reference to the Stafford Act, which Trump invoked when he declared a national emergency on March 13. Before making the false claim about the mandatory quarantine, it says: “within 48 to 72 Hours the president will evoke what is called the Stafford act.”
However, Trump’s use of that federal disaster relief law actually allows for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help state and local governments dealing with the outbreak.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that organizers cancel events that host more than 50 attendees. It also has suggested strategies that communities can implement to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, but there is currently no federally mandated “quarantine.”
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