Is MS right threatening 5 years jail time for not isolating with COVID?
- The Mississippi State Department of Health announced on Friday, August 20, 2021, that individuals testing positive for COVID would have to be isolated for 10 days or face a 5-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
- The state is enduring the largest spike in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with 401,201 cases reported on August 19, 2021. The 7-day average is at 3,586; in the last spike, January had 2,359 cases.
- As of Monday, August 23, 2021, 1.1 million people have been fully vaccinated in Mississippi while 1.4 million have at least one dose.
- The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) announced new guidelines on July 27, 2021, for vaccinated people as the Delta variant spreads. It is recommended to wear a mask in public indoor areas with high transmission rates, to get tested if experiencing symptoms, and follow regular protocols for exposure.
COVID rates in Mississippi have been exploding recently, and drastic action is needed to turn the tide on what state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers has called 'staggering numbers.' It's important to remember that this action would only affect those who know they are infected with coronavirus and choose not to isolate. The coronavirus has the ability to kill, leave long-term effects, and significantly disrupt every aspect of society. With this knowledge, why would anyone who knows they are infected risk further spreading their infection to others in their community? Doing so would be reckless and incredibly selfish; Mississippi is right to threaten jail time to people who choose to completely disregard the health of their communities. The coronavirus has killed over 600,000 people, decimated sectors of the economy, and caused huge suffering and life disruption for millions; Mississippi is right to threaten jail time for those who knowingly contribute to the problem by not isolating.
While this action may seem new, there is a longstanding precedent. Many parts of America and nations around the world have had laws on the books punishing those who intentionally or recklessly infect others with HIV. Much like the new coronavirus actions, the HIV laws were put into place to punish people who knowingly spread their HIV infections through either intentional or reckless behavior. Public health laws such as these are put into place to keep us all safe. No one should have to be exposed to an incredibly infectious and potentially life-altering disease such as HIV or COVID-19 simply because another individual finds safe behavior too cumbersome.
The state of Mississippi is taking a frighteningly authoritarian approach with its recent threat to imprison citizens for not following proper COVID-19 isolation protocols after testing positive for the virus. The consequences for violating the guidelines are admittedly extreme—up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. COVID may be deadly for some vulnerable populations; however, those with compromised immune systems and concerns about the virus have options for keeping themselves safe: getting vaccinated, masking up, or simply staying home themselves. Conversely, the sanctions above have the real potential to ruin a person's future.
Dictating the required ten days of isolation is also an arbitrary stipulation. For example, someone who tests positive but has already been quarantined for ten or more days may not necessarily require an additional ten. The mandate is also questionable considering that previously sick individuals are not required to obtain a negative follow-up test after ten days and before 'legally' being allowed to leave their houses again. There may also be cases where an infected individual can't self-isolate, such as someone requiring medical care or someone who needs food and has not mastered delivery services, such as the elderly who live on their own.
Mississippi's mandate is worrisome due to the overbearing nature of its government's attempt to control. It is similar to when Oregon Governor Brown encouraged citizens to report others to law enforcement for disobeying covid gathering rules during the holiday season. Of course, people who are sick with COVID-19 or any contagious disease should limit their exposure to others wherever possible. Doing so is a moral responsibility to the community but is not one that requires legal intervention.