The National Security Council debunked a text message received by millions last weekend, which suggested President Donald Trump was about to declare a national mandatory quarantine over the spread of the coronavirus.
The government agency posted a notice to Twitter on Sunday night alerting the public to the existence of the hoax.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” the official NSC account said. “There is no national lockdown.”
The message falsely indicated Trump was about to invoke the Stafford Act within a few days, and cited “military” sources suggesting a martial law scenario, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In fact, Trump had already invoked the Stafford Act on March 13 declaring a national emergency over the flu-like coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. The president’s order allowed state and local governmental agencies to more easily access assistance from the federal government.
The Stafford Act, passed by Congress in 1988 as an amendment to the 1974 Disaster Relief Act, is typically used in times of crop failures or other natural disasters such as hurricanes or public health emergencies.
“This appears to be a roundabout way to get at the funding, by declaring an emergency,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, told USA Today last week. “There’s nothing nefarious about it. The coronavirus definitely meets the definition of the emergency in the statute.”
Trump and other conservatives have accused media outlets of deliberately misinforming the public and stoking fears about the threat of coronavirus with the intent to discredit the president.
Earlier this month, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, criticized “media hysteria” over the global pandemic.
Schlapp, the main organizer of the Conservative Political Action Conference, accused former Breitbart News editor Raheem Kassam of spreading a near panic about CPAC after reports an infected individual attended the multi-day event.