You could be charged with terrorism for intentionally spreading coronavirus

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There are people who refuse social distance protocols, and then there are people who deliberately seek to spread the coronavirus. As unfathomable as that is, the latter group of people does exist, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has a serious warning for them.

Those who intentionally spread the coronavirus could face terrorism charges for "purposeful exposure and infection of others," reads a DOJ memo. It has been established that the coronavirus "meets the statutory definition of a 'biological agent'" and that "such acts could implicate the Nation's terrorism-related statutes." The federal government is sending the message that it is not afraid to act with the full force of the law on those who attempt to weaponize the coronavirus.

This pandemic is far from a trivial matter. Acting irresponsibly to daunt others, to prove an irrelevant point, or to poke fun about a deadly virus is not acceptable or funny, it's domestic terrorism.


"Capitalizing on this crisis to reap illicit profits or otherwise preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated," said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

In the U.S., three men have already been charged with making domestic terrorism threats related to the coronavirus.

Cody Lee Pfister from Missouri was charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree after he posted a video of himself licking a shelf of deodorant in a grocery store, CBS reports. Pfister recorded his actions on a video where he jokingly quipped, "Who's scared of the coronavirus? Don't touch your mouth."


According to CBS, that specific charge was given to Pfister because he "knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed" and acted with "reckless disregard to the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure."

Another man, George Falcone from New Jersey, was charged with terrorism to the third degree, obstruction of law and harassment, NBC reports. Falcone was at a Wegmans when an employee he was standing close to politely asked him to move further away. Despite advising him to be mindful of CDC social distancing guidelines, he moved closer to her and coughed in her face while claiming he had the coronavirus. He also proceeded to harass her, saying that she and her coworkers were "lucky" to still have jobs.

Similarly, Daniel Tabussi from Pennsylvania was charged with making terrorist threats, simple assault by physical menace, disorderly conduct, and harassment, ABC 27 reports. During shopping hours designated for seniors only, Tabussi claimed he had the coronavirus and coughed on an elderly man who he made fun of for wearing a mask and gloves. The elderly man was reportedly recovering from pneumonia.


Attorney General William Bar assures that the DOJ will not tolerate acts of this nature and will continue detecting, investigating, and prosecuting any wrongdoings.

"We will ensure that the Department's law enforcement functions operate effectively during this outbreak. It is vital that we work together to safeguard our justice system and thus the safety and security of our nation," he added.

Not for terrorism, but for clout

On social media, people were dared to take part in a "coronavirus challenge" started by online personality Ava Louise. In her video, Louise casually ran her tongue along a toilet seat in an airplane lavatory before throwing up two peace signs.


Another online personality named LARZ followed in her footsteps and posted a video of himself also licking a toilet seat, this time in a public restroom. Days later, he claimed to have tested positive for the coronavirus and said he was hospitalized for it. It is unclear whether his infection was linked to the challenge.

Fortunately, it does not seem that the challenge is being replicated by any other online users. While promoting the challenge is not considered to be an act of terrorism, it is still wrong and dangerous.

Recent studies indicate the virus can survive on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours. Health officials urge the public to sanitize their surfaces as much as possible and to continue practicing good hand hygiene.

Photo by Anna Shvets

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