WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is alleging that a foreign disinformation campaign is underway aimed at spreading fear in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, three U.S. officials said Monday.
On Sunday, federal officials began confronting what they said was a deliberate effort by a foreign entity to sow fears of a nationwide quarantine amid the virus outbreak. Agencies took coordinated action Sunday evening to deny that any such plans were put in place, as they tried to calm a nation already on edge by disruptions to daily life caused by the virus.
The three U.S. officials did not name the foreign entity they believe to be responsible. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” tweeted the National Security Council on Sunday night. “There is no national lockdown.” The NSC encouraged Americans to follow official government guidance.
States and municipalities have banned large public gatherings, closed schools, bars and restaurants, and advised people to exercise so-called social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday issued new guidance recommending against indoor gatherings larger than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that Americans should aim to severely curtail leaving their homes, but did not indicate the government would order such a move. He was specifically questioned on whether he'd like to see a “national lockdown.”
“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. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.