BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Local and state law enforcement agencies are working to dispel rumors about widespread lockdowns, interstate closures, and martial law.
In recent days, sheriff’s offices in Northwest Louisiana have attempted to address the rumors on social media, encouraging the public to stick to confirmed facts and rely on them and their government agencies for accurate information.
At the heart of one widespread rumor appears to be a text message making the rounds claims the National Guard is coming to declare martial law.
The fake message reads something like this:
Here’s what my friend texted me. (His dad works for homeland security). He said that they are preparing to mobilize the national guard. Preparing to dispatch them across the US along with military.
The message goes on to say that there will be a national quarantine and people need to stock up on supplies.
He said they are preparing to announce a nationwide 1 week quarantine for all citizens All (sic) businesses closed. Everyone at home.
The message began to circulate on Facebook, but has since spread to other social platforms.
It has even captured the attention of prominent government officials such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who sought to dispute the rumor.
In Northwest Louisiana, the rumors continue to spread, prompting panic buying at grocery stores and fueling fear about how far the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus could go.
“You know, we’re hearing all sorts of things, just like you might be hearing some things about lockdowns and about curfews, about martial law,” Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator said in a video posted Thursday to the sheriff’s office Facebook page.
“None of that is happening, none of that is in effect in Caddo Parish. Although the sheriff can do things like that, none of that is planned. None of that is needed. And so I just want to tell you, those are all just rumors.”
Prator also warned of scams aimed at capitalizing on the fears and concerns of the public in the face of the pandemic, including people trying to sell protective gear and offering COVID-19 test kits in exchange for money.
“Anytime there’s any kind of national emergency like this, you have criminals who are going to try to take advantage of that. Don’t fall for that.”
Prator’s video included a plea to stop passing along unconfirmed information.
“Don’t pass on information unless you can confirm it. And you can confirm it through the sheriff’s office and through other governmental agencies.”
The DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, which saw its first reported cases Friday, also posted a video on their Facebook page featuring Sheriff Jayson Richardson talking about the coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. While acknowledging that some believe it is a conspiracy, Richardson encouraged citizens to take the necessary actions to protect themselves and the community.
The sheriff’s office posted again on Saturday, noting that they have received several calls regarding rumors that the State of Louisiana is closing the state’s borders.
“This rumor is false. We have not received any information from the state government that would validate this rumor.”
Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington echoed the message about there being no plans for massive lockdowns, no closings of interstates, no martial law” in a post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page.
“Facts over fear. Peace over panic. Please help us keep it real…and real factual”
Louisiana State Police Troop G issued a statement Saturday evening, saying they have received “many phone calls throughout the week about possible road closures as a result of COVID-19.
“In an effort to dispel these rumors, Louisiana State Police would like to reiterate the fact that currently there are no plans to close any roadways. We ask the public to please obtain information from reliable sources and refrain from spreading misinformation.”
They say road closures and detours can be found using the Louisiana Traveler Information System through several different methods including the 511 phone system, www.511la.org, Louisiana DOTD Twitter accounts, and the “Louisiana 511” smartphone application.
What the National Guard is doing to help
About 2,050 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in 27 states have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, according to the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Friday that number most likely would double by the weekend. Lengyel said it is even possible that tens of thousands of Guard members could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.
More than 388 soldiers and airmen are assisting with the COVID-19 response in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana National Guard.
They say more than 100 Soldiers and Airmen are stationed at three sites in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes to assist local agencies with COVID-19 testing and traffic control. The drive-through sites opened March 20 to test 100 first responders and health care workers who have COVID-19 symptoms at each New Orleans location.
As for the Stafford Act, President Donald Trump already used it to declare a national emergency on March 13, which paves the way for $40 billion in FEMA money that can be used to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump also said Friday he doesn’t plan on imposing any kind of nationwide stay-at-home order like a few states have done.