“You may encounter criminal activity ranging from malicious hoaxes to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public, to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with Covid-19,” Mr. Rosen wrote, using the name for the disease caused by the virus.
The memo said that such acts could potentially be prosecuted under federal terrorism laws because the virus was considered a “biological agent.”
Mr. Falcone was not the first person to threaten to spread the virus in New Jersey, where there had been a reported 62 deaths during the outbreak as of Wednesday.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy on Wednesday said that a man in New Providence, N.J., whom he called “another knucklehead,” started to cough at the police and medical personnel during his arrest on a domestic violence charge. The man was also charged with disorderly conduct and harassment, Mr. Murphy said.
On March 12 in Hanover, N.J., local police said a woman, who was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, purposely coughed on an officer and said, “Oh, by the way, I have the coronavirus and so do you now.” Three officers who came in contact with the woman self-quarantined, the police said. The woman, who did not have the coronavirus, was also charged with causing a false public alarm, the authorities said.
Mr. Falcone was charged by summons and was not taken into custody. He waived his first appearance in Monmouth County Court. His next court date has not been set.
Mr. Grewal said there was no tolerance for those who threatened to spread the virus.
“We must do everything we can to deter this type of conduct and any similar conduct that harms others during this emergency,” he said. “Just as we are cracking down on bias offenses and those who use the pandemic to fuel hatred and prejudice, we vow to respond swiftly and strongly whenever someone commits a criminal offense that uses the coronavirus to generate panic or discord.”
Katie Benner contributed reporting.