By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
As the world finds itself in a frenzy trying to cope with the mayhem of the coronavirus, one man in North Carolina decided that now would be a pretty good time to add to the existing stress and paranoia surrounding the pandemic.
In a sheer act of senselessness, on 18 March 2020, Justin Rhodes decided he would enact a hoax to incite the fear and safety of the public.
According to ABC30, the 31-year-old man took to an Albemarle Walmart store and began filming a video of himself on Facebook Live perusing the supermarket’s aisles.
He falsely claimed he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and began declaring he would infect all the customers.
Detectives with the Albemarle Police Department managed to arrest Mr Rhodes and charged him with felony perpetrating a hoax in a public building and disorderly conduct.
He received a $10,000 bond.
“If I Got it Y’all Gonna Get it Too; Fuck All Y’all, That’s How I Feel about it”: Man’s Coronavirus Hoax Video Goes Viral
Mr Rhodes prank was quick to turn viral after he posted the video online, reaching over four million views in a matter of days.
In the footage, which was shared on YouTube, the man can be seen donned in a red cap with tattoos covering his neck.
He peruses the aisles of the supermarket and is heard admitting that he “definitely tested positive for coronavirus”.
He then discloses that he was categorically asked to self-quarantine for 14-21 days, confessing that he should not be in public but has taken a trip to Walmart anyway.
“My throat’s a little itchy but other than that I’m not coughing, I feel great and I ain’t got toilet paper,” the man can be heard saying.
“They say it’s highly contagious.”
He carries on by telling his viewers that he has to eat too, so everyone just has to “deal with it”.
He then asserts that if he has the virus then everyone should get it too.
“If I got it, y’all gonna get it too.
“Fuck all y’all, that’s how I feel about it.”
Still strolling the aisles, the 31-year-old then continues to tell viewers that he needs some orange juice because he needs Vitamin C.
As of 21 March, the video had been viewed 4,163,306 times.
Coronavirus Sees Increase in Similar Incidents Being Posted on Social Media
The man’s arrest comes as similar incidents are increasingly being captured on social media, undoubtedly adding to the paranoia encircling the coronavirus pandemic.
More and more, videos are now emerging online of teenagers found coughing on produce or on people and licking contaminated areas such as toilet seats in so-called social media “challenges” that’ve taken flight against the backdrop of the virus.
Authorities are thus advising parents to be away of teenagers’ social media behaviour, particularly those relating to conduct that is fear-inducing.
Thought is also evolving that with school closures in effect, there is more idle time among children, leaving them with the potential to play up if they are not supervised closely.
Parents are being asked to discourage the promotion of any such behaviour that rouses safety issues or fear.
Wish to speak to a criminal lawyer in Sydney about the new COVID laws in NSW? Call our responsive team 24/7 to arrange a consult.
In NSW, the Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard MP has provided directions in relation to addressing the COVID19 Pandemic.
Amongst the social distancing laws for COVID19 in NSW, the new Public Health Amendment (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Regulation 2020 (NSW) now allows police to issue on-the-spot fines of $5,000 to individuals who intentionally cough or spit at police officers or healthcare workers in a manner that is likely to cause the fear of the spread of the virus.
If anyone is caught doing this, and he/she ends up taking the fine by election to court, a Local Court Magistrate or Judge has discretion to impose a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 fine or six months jail, or both.
The main difference between paying the fine upon receiving the on-the-spot infringement notice and court electing it is, by paying the on-the-spot fine, there will be no conviction recorded, concluding the matter.
On the other hand, by court electing it, not only does the heavier penalties noted earlier apply, but the court can as a result also impose a conviction (criminal record), unless the court can be convinced to impose a non-conviction sentence penalty.
Further, breaching the current NSW social distancing rules allow police to issue $1,000 on-the-spot fines.
If a person takes one of these infringement notices to court, the Local Court Magistrate or Judge has discretion to impose the same maximum penalties noted earlier under section 10 Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).