March 6, 2020 / 9:07 PM / 13 days ago

False claim: mandatory workplace leave and school closures announced to slow COVID-19 spread

Update: March 16, 2020

Since this fact check was published on March 6, many U.S. schools have indeed announced closures. On Sunday March 15, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all public schools in Westchester, Long Island and New York City would be closed this week in order to help lower transmission rates of the coronavirus. Altogether at least 33 states have decided to close public schools, which combined with district closures in other states has shuttered least 64,000 U.S. schools, according to Education Week (here).

Meanwhile, the issue of paid sick leave has been a key element of a new coronavirus aid package that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday March 14 (here).

Despite the developments in school closures and paid leave, this copy-and-paste hoax post remains incorrect, and continues to circulate. Comments on the widely shared posts reveal that while many users understand it to be a prank, others are left confused. "Idk...just watched the news they didn't mention it," writes one Facebook user on a post here . A further hoax post is being shared which carries the text: "CHECK IF YOUR JOB IS ON THIS LIST!!! Beginning March 16, 2020.....To help maintain the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) of spreading, the government has announced mandatory closure with paid leave for all employees of the businesses listed in the link....." (example here). The link leads to the same prank picture described in the original fact check below.

__________________

Shared 140 times as of March 6, 2020, a post (here) by a user called Ny BigMan claims that New York State has announced that "all workplaces with 10 employees or more are to have paid mandatory leave" and that "all schools are to close" for two weeks from March 6, 2020, "to avoid the spread of COVID-19." This is false.​ An alternative version of the same wording, posted by a US Facebook user here , replaces “NY State” with “the Government”. Yet others refer to a variety of US states, such as here and here and the date is variable.

These posts are intended as a prank. At the bottom of the post, there is a link to a Reddit post showing a gorilla making an obscene gesture. Nevertheless, the posts risks misinforming users who do not click on the link and not all users commenting on the shared posts appear to have understood the hoax.

Neither New York State, nor the US Government, nor any other US state, has announced "mandatory paid leave" for all workplaces with at least 10 employees. At a press conference (here) in Albany, N.Y. on March 5, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that there is currently one case of novel coronavirus in Nassau County, 18 in Westchester County and three in New York City. During the briefing, the governor said, "the facts do not merit the level of anxiety that we are seeing" and said he was "a little perturbed about the daily angst when the number [of cases] comes out and the number is higher," explaining, "the number has to go up if you continue to test." Stressing his duty "to communicate facts," Cuomo said he was worried about "people who are in the vulnerable population: senior citizens, immune-compromised [individuals], people with underlying illnesses" but said that "80 percent of the people who get it will self-resolve." This figure is consistent with findings of the World Health Organization's (see page 12: here). 

Cuomo also tweeted (twitter.com/NYGovCuomo), "NYS is activating the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Albany to closely monitor & respond to the #COVID19 outbreak. We’re also activating two EOC outposts in Westchester: one in Hawthorne and one in New Rochelle. They will remain operational until this outbreak subsides." Neither the governor nor anyone in his administration has announced mandatory closures of schools or businesses.​

It is true that several schools in the New York area have opted to temporarily close over novel coronavirus concerns. On March 4, 2020, Politico reported (here) that Yeshiva University in northern Manhattan had canceled classes through Friday, March 6 because the son of 50-year-old man in Westchester with a confirmed case of the virus is a student there. The Office of the President has been posting regular updates on the Yeshiva University website (www.yu.edu/health-alert). As reported by Reuters (here), the SAR Academy and SAR High School, a private Orthodox Jewish school in the Bronx, also canceled classes "to allow for precautionary measures after a suspected case of coronavirus turned up within its community." According to CNBC, another private Jewish school, Westchester Day School, also announced it would be closed and that "Westchester Torah Academy was also reportedly closing."​

In New York City, two private schools, the all-girls Spence School on the Upper East Side and the all-boys Collegiate School on the Upper West Side, announced that their schools would be closed on Friday, March 6 due to concerns over COVID-19, ABC 7 Eyewitness News reported (abc7ny.com/5989076/). On their website (www.spenceschool.org/), the Spence School said it would be closed "for a comprehensive sanitization of the entire campus." ABC 7 reported that the Collegiate school "learned Thursday afternoon that a middle school family is being monitored due to the exposure of a parent to COVID-19 during a recent international trip." Collegiate also confirmed the Friday closure on their website (www.collegiateschool.org/). ​

Neither the New York State Education Department (www.nysed.gov/) nor the New York City Department of Education (www.schools.nyc.gov/) has announced mandatory closures for public schools. Updates on the novel coronavirus can be found here (here) from the New York State Center for School Health and here (here) from the NYC Department of Education. Information on COVID-19 from the New York State Department of Health can be found here (here) and updates from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene can be found here (here).

VERDICT

False: at the time of writing, New York State has not announced mandatory school closures nor paid leave for businesses due to the novel coronavirus. A few private schools have made the decision to close.

0 : 0
  • narrow-browser-and-phone
  • medium-browser-and-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser
  • wide-browser-and-larger
  • medium-browser-and-landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser-and-larger
  • above-phone
  • portrait-tablet-and-above
  • above-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet-and-above
  • landscape-tablet-and-medium-wide-browser
  • portrait-tablet-and-below
  • landscape-tablet-and-below