Alleged COVID-19 hoaxer arrested, charged with felony

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

ALBEMARLE — The Albemarle Police Department announced March 20 the arrest of Justin M. Rhodes after a Facebook Live video, where he allegedly claimed to be infected with coronavirus while wandering the Albemarle Walmart, caused concern in the area. Rhodes was charged with “Felony Perpetrating hoax in a Public Building and Disorderly Conduct.”

Justin M. Rhodes (Albemarle Police Department)

The video appeared to have been made as a prank, but many people who viewed it were alarmed and reported it to law enforcement. Rhodes was given a $10,000 secured bond and is due in court March 30 at 9 a.m.

Rhodes had taken a recent trip to Asia, but his test results for coronavirus were negative.

The Albemarle Police Department posted on their own Facebook, saying, “Verification with the Stanly County Health Department has confirmed that no one in Stanly County has tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Rhodes, who has since taken the video down, had several new posts about the incident which were visible to the public, as well as evidence of a negative coronavirus test and pictures of a recent trip to Asia.

One post said: “Ohhh… btw I passed my thermal scans, hence why I was able to fly back to America 🤘🏼 I’m not showing any symptoms and I’m not infected YOU PPL BELIEVE ANYTHING FROM ANYONE y’all need to calm the f*** down 🤣🤣🤣🤣 get a sense of humor and stop crying.”

Another post told people that there was someone infected in Cabarrus County,  “Y’all worried about me and there’s ppl who actually have the virus 🦠 20 minutes down the road,” and another showed some regret, but only because of his wife receiving some of the blow back: “I hate that I did it, not bc y’all got scared, not because I no longer thought it was funny… I hate that your bringing my wife into something she had no idea and no control over 🤦‍♂️”

Albemarle P.D. thanked the public in their Facebook post for bringing it to their attention: “We want to thank everyone for notifying the Albemarle Police Department about this threat.”