Fact Check: Ohio Is NOT Setting Up FEMA Camps To Separate Children From Parents During COVID-19 Outbreak -- Governor Calls Claims 'Garbage' And 'Ridiculous'

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check:  Ohio Is NOT Setting Up FEMA Camps To Separate Children From Parents During COVID-19 Outbreak -- Governor Calls Claims 'Garbage' And 'Ridiculous' No Camps

Is Ohio setting up FEMA camps to separate children from parents during the COVID-19 outbreak? No, that's not true. Gov. Mike DeWine shot down the claims that the state would be forcing parents with coronavirus and children to be split up and put into FEMA camps, calling the rumors "garbage" and "ridiculous."

The claim appeared in an article published by BigLeaguePolitics.com on September 7, 2020, titled "CDC Announces That Students May Be Kept From Parents Overnight as Ohio Sets Up COVID-19 FEMA Camps - Big League Politics" (archived here) which opened:

The onslaught of tyranny continues.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

CDC Announces That Students May Be Kept From Parents Overnight as Ohio Sets Up COVID-19 FEMA Camps - Big League Politics

The onslaught of tyranny continues.

Conservative news outlet the Ohio Star published an article on September 4, 2020, titled "Headline Ohio FEMA Camps - Still More Questions Than Answers." The outlet questioned the governor's announcement about FEMA camps that were intended to help with people diagnosed with COVID-19 to isolate if they didn't have adequate space at home, asking if a child would be taken away from a single parent if they were unable to safely isolate after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Big League Politics cited the Ohio Star's report and then claimed the camps were going to "forcibly" quarantine people with COVID-19.

The article reported that Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Interim Director Lance Himes released an order on August 31 creating Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shelters and legalizing their use for people who "are unable to safely self-quarantine in their place of residence and to isolate those diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19."

The Ohio Star article noted it asked DeWine a question at a September 3, 2020, press conference and then followed up with the press office for clarification about the FEMA camps, asking if a child could be taken away from a parent with COVID-19 who did not have a safe way to isolate themselves.

The Ohio Star's additional question:

Would the non-congregate sheltering apply to Ohioans of all ages? That is, if a single parent has a one-bathroom apartment and a child is deemed to have had high exposure to COVID-19 at school and the health department determines that the child needs to isolate but also deems the single parent's dwelling unsafe...is the child directed to the shelter?"

Big League Politics referenced the Ohio Star article in its own on September 7, 2020, edition with the headline

"CDC Announces That Students May Be Kept From Parents Overnight as Ohio Sets Up COVID-19 FEMA Camps" and the subhead "The onslaught of tyranny continues."

That article opened:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning parents that their children may be kept from their parents overnight due to COVID-19 concerns, as states set up COVID-19 shelters where infected individuals could be forcibly quarantined."

The link to the CDC website is not a warning that children may be kept from their parents due to COVID-19 concerns, but is a list of "Three steps to protect your child during emergencies in the school day."

Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican, also referenced the Ohio Star article in his claims that children could be forcibly removed from their parents' home if they contracted COVID-19.

He posted a lengthy statement on Facebook on September 5, 2020, that opened:

If you have been following me, you know that almost 4 months ago, I reported that if you have one bathroom in your home and you, or worse your child tests positive for COVID, they will remove your child from your home."

If you have been following me, you know that almost 4 months ago ,I reported that if you have one bathroom in your home...

Posted by Rep. Nino Vitale on Saturday, September 5, 2020

Vitale's claim includes a reference to the "Ventura County California health director" and unsubstantiated claims about Ventura County and quarantines. Lead Stories debunked that claim in May, noting that the California county just north of Los Angeles had no plans to forcibly remove people from their homes into quarantine amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Gov. DeWine addressed the claims about children being forcibly removed from their parents' home amid the coronavirus outbreak as well as claims made by Vitale, an elected official in his own party, during a September 8, 2020, press conference.

DeWine, a Republican, addressed the situation beginning at 31:29 in the video of the press conference.

I want to talk about a rumor. I don't spend much time talking about rumors that are on the internet because we wouldn't get much done if we did that all the time but this one i've gotten so many calls and over the weekend that I thought we would just have to deal with it today. This is comes in the category of crazy ridiculous internet rumors but obviously some people are reading it."

DeWine explained the history in the state. On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency for coronavirus. On March 20 the state of Ohio and FEMA entered into an agreement authorizing Ohio to apply for emergency protective measures that included shelters that would be available to people who did not have a way to safely isolate themselves if they had COVID-19.

At 34:58 in the video DeWine calls the claims "absolutely ridiculous" and says "Children will not be taken away from their loved ones."

I am aware there are rumors on the internet that incorrectly claimed these orders allow children to be separated from their parents without permission let me just say this is absolutely ridiculous. It is not true. There is no intention that anyone has to separate children but somehow this has been reported on the internet. No truth to the rumors at all. Families will not be separated. Children will not be taken away from their loved ones."

De Wine, a Republican, also responds to a reporter asking about a member of his own party -- Vitale -- perpetuating the rumor, beginning at 65:44 in the video. He says he has a good relationship with fellow legislators but denies the veracity of the claims, telling the reporter, "I just decided today to try to knock, at least knock this one down and just say, look this is there's just absolutely no truth in this. There's no substance behind it. It's just garbage."

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes bigleaguepolitics.com as:

A conservative political site owned by a political consultant that has promoted false claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, including about the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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