White House Debunks Text Rumors About a National Quarantine Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
The White House is clearing up some innacurate rumors about how the government is handling the coronavirus crisis.
On Sunday night, the National Security Council sent out a tweet urging Americans not to believe reports that a country-wide quarantine is underway.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” they tweeted. “There is no national lockdown.”
Instead, they pointed followers to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, who they say have and “will continue to post the latest guidance on COVID-19.”
Just earlier in the night, the CDC made an unprecedented recommendation, advising canceling or postponing in-person events with more than 50 people for eight weeks throughout the United States.
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said in a statement. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.”
“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus,” they added.
While the CDC insisted their recommendation did not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses,” many states have instituted such bans.
As of Monday morning, at least 36 states have announced school closures, the Today show reported, including New York City.
De Blasio — who closed Broadway — has also shut down clubs, movie theaters, and concert venues starting on Tuesday, and restricted restaurants and cafes to takeout or delivery only (Seamless and Grubhub, two of the biggest food delivery apps, have since said they’ll be deferring commission fees to help impacted restaurants).
Other leaders, from Illinois to Ohio, announced similar nightlife closures over the weekend. The mayor of Los Angeles extended the ban to gyms. The mayor of Miami, who tested positive for the virus himself, closed the city’s beaches. California’s governor urged the state’ senior citizens to self isolate.
A growing list of retailers have also temporarily closed stores, like Nike, The Gap, Urban Outfitters, and more. Many Starbucks locations have also shut their doors to prevent customers from sitting indoors, while a majority of their stores will move to a “to-go” model.
MGM Resorts has even suspended operations at its many hotel and casino properties in Las Vegas until further notice.
All of these drastic “social distancing” moves are in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, which experts say can be asymptomatic during its 5-14 day incubation period.
And while the country has yet to go into a national quarantine like Italy, Spain, and France, health experts said Monday one might be on the way, especially after many Americans gathered at bars over the weekend for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
“It’s just an expectation, but… I believe we eventually will have to implement [a national quarantine],” NBC News medical contributor Dr. Joseph Fair told Today. “If it continues the way it is of not taking it seriously, because if everyone is not on the same pace — if you have half the people that are out at bars and restaurants partying and half the people who are not — it’s not going to work.”
“I don’t know if there’s time to avoid that fate [of Italy], but there is still time, and there is no choice frankly, that we start now and take a week to plan a 14-day shutdown of all non-essential services across the country,” Fair continued.