A South Carolina man was arrested Thursday after authorities say he falsely claimed to have coronavirus, causing his workplace to shut down for five days, authorities there said.
Jeffery Travis Long, 31, of Inman gave his manager at Sitel Corp. a fake doctor’s note dated March 13 stating he’d tested positive for the disease and would have to miss work for two weeks, according to Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright.
The customer service center’s offices were subsequently evacuated for “major cleaning” and all employees medically screened at a significant cost to the company, Wright said, according to KTLA sister station WSPA in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Wright said Long exacerbated his coworkers’ anxiety surrounding the outbreak.
“It’s bad enough that everybody’s lives is being put in upheaval — just trying to stay safe and get ahead of the curve here, and get a grip on this coronavirus — without having somebody cause, basically, massive panic,” the sheriff said. “I can’t imagine the stress that it caused all his coworkers.”
According to Wright, Long also went to a school and “got everybody on the staff there upset, thinking that they’ve been exposed to this.”
Schools across South Carolina have been ordered to close from Monday through the end of March by Gov. Henry McMaster. As of Thursday, there were 81 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state.
Wright said authorities began looking into Long’s claim because, if he were a confirmed case, they’d need to track down everyone he’d recently been in contact with.
But detectives soon realized the hospital where he said he was treated wasn’t even testing for COVID-19 on March 13, according to Inman Police Chief Keith Tucker, whose department investigated.
Tucker said Long was arrested on two warrants: for breach of peace and forgery.
Long could face up to 10 years behind bars, according to Wright.
“Seems to me like the fellow just wanted a two-week paid vacation. But we’re going to give him a little time in the Hotel California,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the suspect’s first name.