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Officials say claims of pending national quarantine are false

March 16, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Please be advised that within 48-72 hours the president will evoke what is called the Stafford Act. The president will order a two week mandatory quarantine for the nation. Stock up on whatever you need to make sure you have an adequate supply of everything. Please forward to your network. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. U.S. officials said no plans were in place for a national quarantine. They attributed the reports to a deliberate attempt by a foreign entity to sow fear amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

THE FACTS: Screenshots of text messages are circulating in group chats and on social media warning that President Donald Trump plans to order a nationwide quarantine as the coronavirus spreads in the U.S. 


The texts are often attributed to a friend of a friend or a relative who knows someone working in an official capacity for the U.S. government or a medical institution. They claim the government _ sometimes federal, sometimes state or local _ is about to put a quarantine in place and people won’t be allowed to leave their homes for weeks.

The National Security Council debunked the claim on Twitter late Sunday night. 

“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” the tweet stated. “There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19.” 

Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, which gave him the power to free up money and resources needed to fight the outbreak. In his address, Trump cited the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, saying “it gives the kind of power that we need to get rid of this virus.” The act makes no mention of giving the president powers to declare a national quarantine.

The act also had a brief moment in the limelight in 2015 when it was used by the president in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

The Associated Press reported Monday that Trump administration officials were pointing to the texts and posts as an example of foreign disinformation taking place to spread fear about the virus. 

Similar texts were sent out last week on a local level in states including Washington, Texas and New York. New Yorkers received posts Friday falsely claiming a New York City Police Department official had said that Metro-North commuter rail service would be halted and subway service disrupted.  


Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans on Sunday to limit leaving their homes but did not suggest that the U.S. should seek a “national shutdown.” 

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: