Authorities have arrested a Texas man after he was found to have lied about having the coronavirus (COVID-19) on social media.
The man, identified by the police as Michael Lane Brandin, 23, said in a Facebook post that he tested positive at Tyler County Hospital on Friday. The post has since been deleted.
Brandin, in a comment on his post, also said that he was told by doctors and staff at Tyler County that the virus had become airborne, Texas police said in a statement.
According to the police, Brandin’s post caused panic, with people clogging both the hospital and Tyler County authorities’ phone lines, asking about the supposed COVID-19 case in their community. He turned himself over to authorities after County Judge Jacques Blanchette issued an arrest warrant. He was jailed on a $1,000 bond.
Brandin was charged with a case of false alarm or report, according to the police, a class A misdemeanor.
As reported by KJAS-TV, Brandin allegedly told investigators that he made the post as a “social experiment,” with his point being that “not everything one reads online can be believed.”
Tyler District Attorney Lucas Babin posted earlier this week on Facebook that such claims could be a criminal offense.
“Knowingly communicating, initiating, or circulating a false report/false alarm of COVID-19 that one *knows is false or baseless* and that would ordinarily cause action by an official or interrupt the occupation of any place of assembly, can be a criminal offense in the State of Texas,” Babin posted.
Brandin’s prank and subsequent arrest happened just as the state ramped up its efforts to combat the coronavirus.
Texas currently has 95 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, before spreading to other parts of the globe. (Related: Coronavirus spreads to NYC, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee and Nevada as epidemic sweeps across America)
As reported by the Texas Tribune, while the largest numbers of cases have mostly been centered in the Houston area in North Texas and at a federal quarantine site in San Antonio, all five of the state’s most densely-populated urban areas have confirmed cases.
At least three Texans’ deaths have been linked to COVID-19 as the state experiences a public health disaster, the Texas Tribune reported.
According to Texas authorities, the number of positive tests is expected to increase exponentially.
“You’re going to see an exponential increase in the number of people testing positive on a daily basis,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a press conference Monday, adding that he expects testing for the new coronavirus in the state to ramp up to 10,000 weekly
As of March 17, 1,264 Texans have been tested for COVID-19, Abbott said.
Testing, however, will prioritize front-line health care workers, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
“If we lose the health care providers to COVID-19, we’re not gonna have anybody to care for all these people,” John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, said.
Aside from an increase in testing for the coronavirus, Texas authorities have also ordered the closure of the state’s schools, as well as the cancellation of events that are seen to attract large groups of people. Texans are also now being told to practice social distancing and to work from home if possible.
In addition, food establishments such as restaurants have been told to prohibit in-person dining and instead, focus on take-outs and deliveries, while “nonessential” businesses such as bars and clubs have been told to close.
As of this writing, there are 218,809 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 8,810 have been confirmed dead. In the U.S., 9,410 are currently infected, while 147 have died.
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