Fact Check

Is the CDC Setting Up 'Green Zones' or COVID-19 Containment Camps?

A months-old document exploring one possible response to the COVID-19 pandemic was misrepresented on social media.

Published Nov 25, 2020

2006.James Gathany..Captured by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control's biomedical photographer, this 2006 image depicted the exterior of the new "Tom Harkin Global Communications Center", otherwise known as Building 19, located on the organization's Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia. The facility houses the CDC's Information Center/Library, auditoria and meeting halls, which are used to accommodate in-house staff meetings, and national/international conferences hosted by the CDC, and the National Center for Health Marketing's, Division of Creative Services, which includes a full service television broadcast facility...The exhibit area currently features the <i>"Global Symphony"</i>, the first of several permanently installed exhibitions, and changing exhibitions that focus on a variety of public health topics. The exhibits in the Center are self-guided, and require no advance reservations. Additional curriculum-based exhibits and programming will be added in the future.<p><u>Tom Harkin Global Communications Center Exhibit Area Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</u><p>- 1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30333<p>- Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, except for federal holidays Admission is free<p>- Government-issue photo ID is required for entry. Please note that CDC is a working federal facility and as such does not provide public tours of its campus and laboratories.<p>- For more information please call 404-639-0830. (Wikipedia)
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The CDC is setting up COVID-19 containment camps called "green zones."
What's True

A July 2020 document explored considerations for implementing a shielding approach, a strategy that aims to reduce contact between high-risk individuals and the general population in order to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

What's False

The CDC, like many government organizations, typically plans for a variety of scenarios in order to be prepared for global health events like a pandemic. This document shows that the CDC has given thought to what would be required to implement "green zones," not that they have implemented such a plan.

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In November 2020, social media users started to spread screenshots that supposedly showed a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document that detailed an alleged plan by the agency to implement "green zones," or COVID-19 containment camps, to stop the spread of the pandemic:

The CDC is not recommending the implementation of COVID-19 containment camps. This rumor is based on a months-old document that explored the various factors that would have to be considered if "green zones" were ever deemed necessary to control the pandemic.

Social media users shared cherry-picked screenshots of this document on social media along with  worrisome messages warning that the CDC was advocating for setting up concentration camps. One person, for example, wrote: "Are you effin kidding me?!?!? Fight this!!!! CDC advocating putting high risk people in green zone “camps”?!?!? Away from family members?!?!? Nazi’s!"

These social media posts are based on a genuine page from the CDC website entitled "Interim Operational Considerations for Implementing the Shielding Approach to Prevent COVID-19 Infections in Humanitarian Settings." While this page, which was first published in July 2020, does talk about "high-risk individuals" being "temporarily relocated to safe or green zones," describing this document as a CDC "recommendation" or "plan" is inaccurate.

This document presents various factors that would need to be considered before such a plan could be made. In its opening paragraph, it's explained that "the purpose of this document is to highlight potential implementation challenges of the shielding approach from CDC’s perspective and guide thinking around implementation in the absence of empirical data." In other words, this document shows that the CDC has started to consider what actions would be required (and what impact they would have on individuals) if such action was deemed necessary.

It should also be noted that in the four months since the publication of document, no such "green zones" or COVID-19 containment camps have been constructed. Rather, the CDC has advocated for the public to wear face masks, wash their hands, and practice social distancing.  

We reached out to the CDC for more information and will update this article accordingly.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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