By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) The National Security Council is pushing back hard on reports that a “national lockdown” is coming over the coronavirus outbreak, stating that such claims are simply false.
In a tweet, the NSC left no doubt that no such plans are in the works (at least at this point).
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â€œText message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,â€ the NSCâ€™s verified accountÂ saidÂ just before midnight. â€œThere is no national lockdown. The CDC has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus.”
— NSC (@WHNSC) March 16, 2020
The Washington Examiner noted:
Screenshots of the falsified messages were passed around on Twitter and other social media platforms on Sunday purporting to show insider information about a military plan to institute a nationwide lockdown in the coming days, akin to what has been imposed in Italy as the disease has overwhelmed that nationâ€™s healthcare system.
Brody Logan, a morning anchor for KSEE24 News,Â sharedÂ a couple examples of the false rumors on Twitter, with one citing an unnamed â€œfriend whose partner is CIAâ€ and another vaguely referencing â€œCarolineâ€™s sister (who works for the FBI and National Security Council on an intelligence team advising the President)â€ and talking about plans to â€œshut everything downâ€ or â€œmove the U.S. toward the current status off Italyâ€™s lockdown.â€ Other variations of the false rumors were also spread around.
Prior to the NSC tweet, HuffPostÂ contributor Yashar Ali hadÂ tweeted: “Your friend or family member doesn’t know someone at the Pentagon who knows what decisions the executive branch is making in response to Coronavirus. The screenshot they’re sending you isn’t real.”
Now, local and state lockdowns are a different story.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended banning any gatherings of more than 50 people for the next two months, state governors and city mayors are themselves implementing bans on public gatherings and ordering places like bars and restaurants closed.
And there have been some National Guard units called up to assist states with coronavirus-related activities.
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Naturally, the national situation could change. If the virus outbreak becomes much worse, then it’s certain within President Trump’s authority, under the recently-declared national emergency, to order lockdowns, though politically and practically speaking, that might not go over so well.
In any event, for now the NSC is pooh-poohing reports of a national lockdown.
Update: Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli tweeted a similar denial this afternoon:
Hey folks, we’re not shutting down the United States. Lots of serious mis-information being peddled out there!
— Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (@HomelandKen) March 16, 2020
Also, Fox News is reporting that the original bogus reports are part of a foreign disinformation campaign — which makes sense, given that our public officials seem to be patently overreacting to a virus that has so far had such a limited spread and death rate as to be little more than a public health blip in normal times.
Update 2: At around 3:00 p.m. EDT, Trump issued a two-page set of guidelines, calling on states and cities to shut down schools, close bars/restaurants, avoid visiting older Americans in nursing homes, and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
We’ll keep you posted if we hear more, of course.
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