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The governor of Ohio was forced to address unfounded conspiracy theories as fake rumours went viral across social media in recent days about so-called “FEMA camps” set up across the state to enforce mandatory quarantines.
Gov Mike DeWine (R—OH) described the conspiracies as “crazy, ridiculous internet rumors” during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon about the coronavirus pandemic.
He spoke after unverified claims that had no basis in reality circulated this week alleging the federal government had established camps throughout Ohio for Covid-19 patients as part of an apparent effort to enforce quarantine orders.
“I want to talk about a rumour. I don’t spend much time talking about rumours 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 over the weekend that I thought we would just have to deal with it today,” Mr DeWine said. “It’s in the category of crazy, ridiculous internet rumours.”
Mr DeWine explained during the conference that the rumours likely started from misinformation emanating from an order issued from the Ohio Department of Health. That order provided reimbursement to Covid-19 patients in the state who were self-isolating away from loved ones in sheltered places that they had to pay for throughout the pandemic.
“I want to make this very clear, this order does not create FEMA camps to force anyone to quarantine against their will,” the governor continued. “I am aware there are rumours on the internet that incorrectly claims these orders allow children to be separated from their parents without permission. Let me just say this is absolutely ridiculous. It is not true.”
Mr DeWine provided an example during his Tuesday press briefing about a medical worker who stayed at a hotel in order to avoid potentially exposing an at-risk family member to Covid-19 before seeking reimbursement from the government for their hotel stay. The order was not meant to create funding for large-scale housing to enforce coronavirus quarantine orders in Ohio, the governor said, and it never had that impact during the pandemic.
The governor tweeted a statement about the internet conspiracy theories after delivering his press conference, saying he wanted to “clear up any confusion” about the rumours that he noted were “getting some attention” online.
“Having quarantine housing options gives people the choice of a safe, comfortable place to recover from the virus while others can stay in the original housing,” he wrote. “The bottom line, neither FEMA nor ODH are going to set up ‘FEMA camps’ for anyone to quarantine against their will. What we are doing is making available a safe place for people to stay when they have loved ones they are trying to protect and they have no other place to go.”