Fake flyers spread false COVID-19 response in Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Someone plastered fake flyers all over downtown Olympia storefronts, and the message had some people fearing the worst.

“Effective immediately, all of the businesses will be closed,” said Joseph Dukes Jr.

Fear flooded Dukes’ brain when he read the flyer that was posted to the front door of Cascadia Grill.

“I thought it was real. My brother had me read it, and I was like, 'Wow." I was stunned. I go, ‘Oh my God, we’re closed, we just opened up again,’” he said.

Dukes is the restaurant’s head chef.

It’s been a tough week for the restaurant. It’s down to takeout only, half its staff is laid off and the fake flyer showed up on their front door.

"People like to have fun with people, especially in bad times. I think it’s a horrible thing to do, and it shouldn’t have been done in the first place,” he said.

The flyer is a bogus emergency declaration falsely claiming to come from the city of Olympia, directing businesses to close indefinitely.

The letter also said, during the coronavirus crisis, all medical expenses would be paid for by the city, rent, utility, debt and parking fees would be suspended, homeless camp sweeps would be banned, empty condos, businesses and schools would house people without homes, no one would be arrested and pretrial prisoners would be set free.

"I don’t know that it is fearmongering, I feel like it’s someone’s wish fulfillment of what they think the city should do,” said Frank Hussey, owner of Danger Room comics.

No matter the reason, the city called the flyers "grossly irresponsible” and said exploiting a health crisis to create fear and confusion is nothing less than shameful.

Many stores throughout the city are already closed because of COVID-19.

Hussey wasn’t fooled by the flyer but wonders why someone would take the time to do this.

"I don’t think it was appropriate. I don’t think you should spread misinformation,” he said.

The city of Olympia said it’ll never spread messages by taping them to doors and that all official messages will come through the city’s social media pages, website or electronic newsletters.