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Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen during a press conference at the Justice Department. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen advised law enforcement officials in a memorandum Tuesday they may use "terrorism-related statutes" in cases involving "the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19," per Politico and the Washington Post.

"Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a 'biological agent,' under federal law such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes."
— Excerpt from Rosen's memo, per WashPost

The big picture: The novel coronavirus had killed 796 people and infected more than 55,000 others by early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. All levels of government are racing to try and contain the spread of the virus and impact on economies by introducing a range of measures, from social distancing to stay-at-home orders.

Between the lines: WashPost notes that Rosen's memo to Department of Justice leaders, U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement agency chiefs appears to be "theoretical" at this stage.

Of note: The Justice Department filed its first COVID-19 enforcement action on Sunday, against a website it says was offering a fraudulent coronavirus vaccine.

  • Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice's Civil Division said in a statement, "The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain." Axios has contacted the DOJ for comment on the memo.

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the Capitol. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: The Celebrate America event, with remarks by Biden and Harris.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

President Biden faces a deeply broken America

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As President Biden begins his term in office today, he'll be tasked with leading a country beset with deep, long-term problems.

Why it matters: Though the pandemic has made them worse, existential challenges around inequality, social alienation and political division in the U.S. were in place well before SARS-CoV-2 arrived on American shores. The country's future will depend in large part on whether the choices made over the next four years can flatten the curve of American decline.

Facebook, Instagram transfer accounts, followers to Biden administration

Screenshot of official White House Facebook account.

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed that it is transferring the millions of followers of the official Facebook and Instagram White House accounts to the Biden administration.

Details: The accounts for "@POTUS," "@VicePresident" ("@VP" on Instagram) and "@FLOTUS" are having the followers from their personal Pages and accounts be transferred over. It's unclear when that transition process will be complete.