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Defendant Falsely Claims She Has Coronavirus, Prompting Evacuation Of Courtroom, Authorities Say

Celia Hill was in court to respond to a drug charge when she said she may have been infected with the virus, briefly causing a panic, according to authorities.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Celia Hill Pd

An Arkansas court room was cleared out Wednesday after a defendant falsely claimed to have contracted the new strain of coronavirus spreading across the globe — prompting further criminal charges for the woman responsible for the brief panic.

A judge at the Faulkner County District Court in Mayflower, Arkansas ordered the evacuation on Wednesday morning after a woman in the building claimed to have been exposed to coronavirus during a recent flight, the Mayflower Police Department said. The street was shut down and medical personnel responded to the scene, according to authorities. The city of Mayflower is just about 20 miles north of Arkansas' state capital of Little Rock.

The woman in question was later identified as Little Rock resident Celia Hill, 34, who was in court that day to respond to a misdemeanor drug charge, local outlet KATV reports. She then claimed to be sick and said that she might have contracted the coronavirus, prompting the evacuation, according to the station. Hill would not consent to be transported to a hospital for medical testing, and medical personnel were unable to perform a blood test until a judge ordered it, prosecutor David Hogue told KATV.

The Arkansas Department of Health ultimately found that Hill did not actually have the virus, the Mayflower Police Department confirmed on Wednesday afternoon. However, court hearings for that day had to be rescheduled to next month, police said.

“As far as we can tell, she lied about having the coronavirus,” Hogue told KATV.

Photos posted by the outlet show medical professionals wearing masks while wheeling a woman — possibly Hill — away from the area on a stretcher.

Hill now faces charges of filing a false report, obstructing governmental operations, and contempt of court, according to KATV. It was not immediately clear if she had an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

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