As COVID-19 cases rise in Mississippi, the state’s Department of Health on Friday sent out an alert warning those who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate for 10 days or face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Fox News reported that the order issued Friday by State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that those “infected with COVID-19 must remain in the home or other appropriate residential location for 10 days from onset of illness.”
Dobbs added that people isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test don’t need a negative test to end their quarantine, but they do need to be “fever free for at least 24 hours with improvement of other symptoms.” Further, any students or faculty in K-12 schools who test positive for COVID-19 are not allowed on campus during the isolation period.
Anyone who doesn’t follow this protocol, Dobbs wrote, faces stiff penalties.
“The failure or refusal to obey the lawful order of a health officer is, at a minimum, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.00 (41-3-59) or imprisonment for six months or both. If a life-threatening disease is involved, failure or refusal to obey the lawful order of a health officer is a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.00 or imprisonment for up to five years or both (41- 23-2),” Dobbs wrote.
The health officer then defined isolation as limiting exposure to household contacts and disallow visitors.
“Please stay in a specific room away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if available. If you need to be around others in your home, you should wear a face mask,” Dobbs added.
How officials would know someone tested positive and failed to self-isolate in order to punish them is unclear.
Fox reported that “Mississippi hospitals currently have more COVID-19 patients than at any other time in the pandemic, as 1,660 patients were hospitalized, 457 were in the ICU, and 324 were on ventilators on Wednesday, according to state health data.”
The state also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, as just 45.1% of Mississippi residents have received at least one dose of either vaccine and just 36.8% have been fully vaccinated. For reference, at least 72.9% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 62.3% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state’s only Level 1 trauma center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, also announced on Friday that it would require all staff and students to be vaccinated, a reversal from its previous policy that allowed employees and students to choose not to be vaccinated so long as they wore N95 masks.
Dr. Alan Jones, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs wrote the announcement, saying, “COVID-19 in Mississippi is a raging wildfire but not everyone is helping throw water on the flames in their own backyard.”