Fact vs. Fiction: Rumors around the coronavirus may be close to the truth

News 8 Now Investigates some of the top myths being circulated and where they come from

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Rumors about the coronavirus and the government’s response to the pandemic are circulating fast. That’s why the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as FEMA, is trying to help Americans get answers with a new website.

It can be tough to spot a rumor, especially if there is some truth to it. Like, FEMA’s rumor #1: There is a national lockdown and the entire country will be quarantined for two weeks.

There is no national lockdown order. President Trump, his administration and the CDC issued guidelines referred to as ‘15 Days to Slow the Spread’.

“I want to encourage anyone to keep following our guidelines on social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and [continue] handwashing,” said President Trump, during a news conference on March 24.

But state and local authorities can issue their own directions. In Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ ‘Safer at Home’ order issued Tuesday, only certain essential travel like going to the grocery store or getting medical supplies are allowed. Some businesses are also able to remain open. Otherwise, everyone should remain at home.

“Shrinking your circle of interactions will help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Evers, in a video message shared by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

A similar order was issued in Minnesota by Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday.

Rumor #2: FEMA has deployed military assets.

FEMA does not have military assets. Any direction for military assistance, such as the National Guard, would come from the state’s governor. In Minnesota, the National Guard moved medical equipment. In Wisconsin, the National Guard transported residents back to the state after their cruise ship was quarantined, among other roles.

“We have specialized skills and equipment that can be leveraged to fill a resource gap at a local or state level,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, in a video message to Wisconsin residents.

Rumor #3: I heard that the government is sending $1,000 checks. How do I sign up?

“Americans need cash now and the President wants to get cash now,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, during a press conference on March 17.

This was an idea floated by the Trump administration last week and a version of this was included in the stimulus bill. It needed to clear both the House and Senate before President Trump could sign it, but he did indicate this week that he would do so as soon as it came to his desk.

It isn’t clear yet when the money would be available for Americans. There is no indication that you would need to sign up for it.

Rumor #4: I need to stockpile as many groceries and supplies as I can.

You can still go to the supermarket if you need food or supplies. Because people are rushing to get supplies they don’t need, it is forcing stores to limit certain purchases like toilet paper or hand sanitizer. While stores are trying to stock up, panic buying is leaving little behind for everyone else. Take only what you need and use what you take.

Rumor #5: Only those over 60 years of age and those with existing health problems are at risk from the coronavirus.

Anyone can contract the virus and develop mild to severe symptoms. In La Crosse County, 11 out of the 12 lab-confirmed positive cases were people in their 20’s to 40’s. However, the CDC said the elderly and those with existing health problems may be at higher risk for more serious complications. The agency said 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years and older.

“We will continue to urge every American to be vigilant in practicing good hygiene and taking the advice of the CDC and local health experts to keep those most vulnerable safe,” said Vice President Mike Pence, during a press briefing on March 15.

It may be tough to separate fact from fiction. FEMA is telling people not to believe rumors or pass them along. If you’re unsure if something is correct, go to trusted sources of information to see if its right. That may include The World Health Organization, Harvard Medical School, or the CDC.