US officials: foreign disinformation stoking virus fears; report of health agency cyberattack

President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on coronavirus in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Washington. Listening from left are Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is alleging that a foreign disinformation campaign is underway aiming to stoke fear amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Three U.S. officials said Monday that federal officials began confronting what they said was a deliberate effort by a foreign entity to sow fear of a nationwide quarantine.

Agencies took coordinated action Sunday evening to deny that any such plans were in the offing.

They’re trying to calm a nation already on edge by disruptions to daily life caused by the virus.

The three U.S. officials did not name the foreign entity they believe to be responsible. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

Bloomberg reported the Department of Health and Human Services had been the victim of a cyberattack. The attack appeared to be an effort to slow down their system but didn’t in a meaningful way, sources said.

The National Security Council tweeted late Sunday that “text message rumors” of a national quarantine were fake.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. Gray Media Group, Inc. contributed to the report. All rights reserved.