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Trump-backed Washington House candidate leads misinformation-based COVID rally outside state health department

A couple hundred protesters appeared outside the Washington state Department of Health on Wednesday, after "disturbing" COVID-19 vaccine-related falsehoods began spreading on social media late last week, The Seattle Times reports.

The rumors claimed the state Board of Health was on the verge of authorizing "local health officials and police to round up people for refusing to get coronavirus vaccines and forcibly lock them up in quarantine facilities," writes the Seattle Times. Though there was in fact no such plan, the misinformation was seized upon by "anti-vaccine activists, some conservative radio hosts and at least three Republican congressional candidates."

The misunderstanding culminated in over 30,000 emails and hundreds of calls in addition to the demonstration outside health department offices ahead of a board meeting, during which protesters raged "at the nonexistent quarantine plot, as well as a real — but very early stage — study on whether to mandate coronavirus vaccines for children to attend K-12 schools." 

Keith Grellner, chair of the Board of Health, told the Seattle Times that the blowback was predicated on a "totally false" description of Wednesday's agenda. 

"It's created confusion. It's created anger. It's created fear. And it is wasting a huge amount of government resources, time and money," said Grellner. "These people who put out this misinformation seem to relish in the chaos that they're creating."

Notably, Wednesday's rally was led by Joe Kent, a Republican Washington House candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Kent promoted the protest on Twitter and ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon's podcast, reports the Seattle Times. 

In actuality, the health board was meeting not to take action but to discuss certain coronavirus-related updates, including those pertaining to required K-12 vaccinations.

"It's scary and sad,' said Grellner of the backlash. Read more at The Seattle Times.