District officials reassured parents Tuesday that “it remains safe to attend school and on-campus events” after an online fake news headline stirred up fears of a coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday, Mesa Public School officials worked to debunk a viral outbreak of fake news regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus that caused a bit of an uproar.
The online hoax comes two days after the Arizona Department of Health Services announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Maricopa County.
In an email, Director of Communications & Engagement Heidi Hurst said the district first became aware of the hoax after school began Tuesday morning.
“We started receiving reports of parent phone calls inquiring about students contracting coronavirus at three of our high schools (Mountain View, Red Mountain, and Skyline),” Hurst stated.
In response, Mesa Public School officials sent out a letter to families letting them know they were “aware of a coronavirus hoax circulating throughout our community,” and that an online fake “breaking news” generator is to blame.
Hurst included a copy of one of the fake headlines – noting the still visible watermark by the online generator in the upper right corner.
District officials reassured parents that notification of a potential outbreak would come from “the district or your school, not by a third-party source,” and provided them with a link to a Maricopa County website with the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, but has since spread internationally. As of January 27th, the Centers for Disease Control said there have been five confirmed cases with 73 pending in the United States.
The only known connection between Mesa, Arizona and the coronavirus was reported by AZ Family on Tuesday. The Dangerfield Family from Mesa is currently in Wuhan, China visiting family for the Lunar New Year.
Jonny Dangerfield, who spoke for the family, said the widespread “panic” over the disease seems to be quarantined outside the city.
“I can’t speak for an entire city of 10 million people… but a lot of the sentiment we talk about here in Wuhan is that ‘It seems like everyone in Wuhan is not worried, but everyone outside of Wuhan is freaking out’,” Dangerfield told AZ Family.
Because of rising coronavirus concerns, and with the potential of more misinformation, CDC officials said they will continue to provide public updates on the virus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.