Fact Check: States Are NOT Imposing Mandatory Leave And Statewide School Closures Due To Coronavirus

Hoax Alert

  • by: Ryan Cooper

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Did Michigan, other states, or the federal government, announce measures that all workplaces with 10 employees or more are to have paid mandatory leave to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus? No, that's not true: Dozens of posts such as this have gone viral, all with very similar language, but they are all pranks. The link in the posts takes viewers to a gorilla giving the middle finger. The post was a hoax related to the coronavirus, but the joke went viral and fooled many people.

The claim appeared in several posts (archived here), one of which was published by Trisha Jane on March 5. It opened:

The State of Michigan has announced measures that all workplaces with 10 employees or more are to have paid mandatory leave to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus starting on March 6, 2020.

All schools are to close for 2 weeks also from March 6th.

Offices will resume after 2 weeks of the mandatory closure.

A list of all schools and businesses in your area are shown on the list.

Read the full article here:
https://external-preview.redd.it/vxPXEGgL4v8mCGw06IFGsmJNtqWQg-z60xQQ79dHKPY.jpg?auto=webp&s=db7685262e9b352a4888e547f52a244e2ea2cb9f

Screenshot of https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156801853446994&set=a.10150531304671994&type=3&theater

Users on social media saw this:

The posts making the rounds all have very similar "Breaking News" branding to give the appearance that they are legitimate stories from reputable news outlets. However, they are completely made up. FactCheck.org and PolitiFact have debunked these stories and rated them as false.

There are no reports of statewide school closures or the imposing of mandatory paid leave on businesses with 10 or more employees. This is the image readers will see when they click the link for more information:

vxPXEGgL4v8mCGw06IFGsmJNtqWQg-z60xQQ79dHKPY.jpg

The posts apparently first appeared on or around March 4, 2020, and they quickly multiplied. New iterations contained different "Breaking News" graphics, including the motif used by the BBC. Here is a representative sampling of the various posts:

CoronavirusPrank.jpg

In each of the examples, the text is always very similar:

[Location] has announced measures that all workplaces with 10 employees or more are to have paid mandatory leave to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus starting on March 6, 2020.
All schools are to close for 2 weeks also from March 6th.
Offices will resume after 2 weeks of the mandatory closure.
A list of all schools and businesses in your area are shown on the list.
Read the full article here:
https://external-preview.redd.it/vxPXEGgL4v8mCGw06IFGsmJNtqWQg-z60xQQ79dHKPY.jpg?auto=webp&s=db7685262e9b352a4888e547f52a244e2ea2cb9f

Some posts contain state names, while others refer to the federal government. In either case, it would be significant news if businesses with more than 10 employees were ordered to undertake a two-week mandatory leave or quarantine. The financial implications of such a move could be crippling.

Concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus have prompted some cities to close schools temporarily. Schools in San Francisco, Elk Grove, California, and Denver are among those that have canceled classes after individuals tested positive for the virus. Even so, there are no reports of statewide or federal closures of schools or businesses.

The Hill reported that U.S. Congressional Democrats planned to introduce a bill that would require all employers to give up to 14 days of paid sick leave due to the spread of the coronavirus. However, according to the article, "Republicans have largely been resistant to government-mandated paid-leave policies over concerns that businesses might struggle to cover the costs."

As of March 8, 2020, there are more than 107,000 cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed in at least 75 countries, according to The New York Times. At least 3,654 people have died, most of them in mainland China, where the outbreak originated.

(UPDATE: Since this story was published, the novel coronavirus pandemic - as declared by the World Health Organization - has resulted in many mandatory closures. Included are all public schools in least 18 states. The list is growing, so it remains wise to check with your own state and district to be sure that readers are up to date. The following list, put out by the Associated Press and Cleveland's Fox8.com, was updated March 14, 2020.

screenshot_101.png

Updates:

  • 2020-03-15T10:21:37Z 2020-03-15T10:21:37Z
    Since this story was published, the novel coronavirus pandemic - as declared by the World Health Organization - has resulted in many mandatory closures. Included are all public schools in least 18 states. The list is growing, so it remains wise to check with your own state and district to be sure that readers are up to date.

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  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

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