US Army reservist from Virginia falsely accused of starting coronavirus pandemic

The United States Army is debunking a rumor spreading like wildfire on the internet saying a northern Virginia woman is "patient zero" for the coronavirus pandemic. There’s apparently no evidence to support this claim. Even so, in the online world, conspiracy theorists are running with it.

The woman at the center of the false rumor lives in a Woodbridge neighborhood. She works at Fort Belvoir and her husband works at the Pentagon.

Their story became public this week after they did an interview with CNN Business.


Maatje Benassi is an U.S. Army reservist. She’s also an avid cyclist who traveled to Wuhan, China back in October to participate in a cycling event at the Military World Games.

Pictures posted on military websites show her cycling. A simple Google search with Benassi’s name shows several reports and claims.

Mysteriously, conspiracy theorists are falsely claiming Benassi brought the disease to China. Published reports indicate George Webb, known for posting conspiracy videos on his YouTube page, is one of the sources of the false information.

FOX 5 reached out to Webb on Facebook and there was no response.

The claim has also been embraced by Chinese Communist Party media.

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Back at the Benassi home Tuesday — signs that this is weighing very heavily on their family — FOX 5 saw a detailed security system being put in.

In a statement emailed to FOX 5’s Tisha Lewis, the U.S. Army says:

“The Army is providing support to help Sgt. 1st Class Benassi with the public attention. As a matter of policy, the Army would neither confirm nor deny any safety or security measures taken on behalf of an individual; however, as we would with any Soldier, the Army will work with the appropriate  authorities to ensure that she and her family are properly protected."

On a Facebook page, George Webb is reportedly based in Portland Oregon.  His Twitter page is down but his YouTube account remains up — that’s where he’s broadcast about all this and he has nearly 100,000 subscribers.