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McLennan County cracks down on fake coughing videos

Posted at 2:12 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 03:12:50-04

WACO, Texas — The McLennan County Emergency Operation Center released a statement saying pranks involving fake coughing "with the intent to place the person in fear of becoming infected with COVID-19" are considered criminal conduct.

According to the statement, the announcement comes after a wave of pranks began to appear on social media. The EOC has seen similar videos begin to appear in McLennan County,

"People are going into grocery stores and coughing on them and saying, "Oh yes, I have COVID-19 and I'm going about and doing all these things,"" said Elizabeth Thomas, McLennan County's Emergency Management Coordinator.

If caught, violators could be charged with terroristic threat, harassment and/or violation of Emergency Management Plan. The penalty for those offenses include fines up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

Around two weeks ago, a grocery store in Pennsylvania had to throw out $35,000 dollars in food after a customer pretended to cough on items in the deli, produce and frozen meats section of the store. That customer was later arrested.

In Texas, a Dallas teenager was arrested for claiming to intentionally spread COVID-19.

"We don't see it as funny or something that should be joked about," Thomas said. "We're taking all these serious measures to shelter in place and shutting down our normal lives."

According to Thomas, the McLennan EOC hopes the statement will help stop these pranks in Central Texas and produce a sense of calm in the middle of this pandemic.