COVID-19 patients must isolate or face fines, jail time under new MSDH order

State health officials hold a press conference on COVID-19
State health officials hold a press conference on COVID-19(wlbt)
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As COVID-19 cases across the state continue to surge, state health leaders are hoping a new order will encourage people infected with the virus to self-isolate.

Friday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs handed down a mandate that all individuals, vaccinated or not, who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home upon learning they are infected.

Individuals who fail to do so could be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $500, six months’ imprisonment, or both, upon conviction. If a life-threatening disease is involved, failure to follow the order could result in a felony charge, carrying a fine of up to $5,000, five years in prison, or both.

The news comes as Mississippi continues to report thousands of new infections daily, and as it leads the nation in new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

“Louisiana... They’ve had 36,000 cases in the last seven days with the rate of 791 cases per 100,000. When you look at Alabama... 21,000 cases in the last seven days. Their rate is 439 per 100,000 in the last seven days. Arkansas ... 528 per 100,000 in the last seven days. Mississippi... 25,000 cases in the last seven days, but our rate is 843 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.

Byers was speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update hosted by the Mississippi State Medical Association. “These numbers are staggering guys. They’re real and they’re staggering.”

According to the order, individuals must remain at home or in an “appropriate residential location” for 10 days from the onset of the illness or 10 days from the date of the positive test for those who are asymptomatic.

Negative tests results are not required to end the isolation at the end of the 10 days, but individuals must be fever-free for at least 24 hours and have an improvement in regard to other symptoms.

Meanwhile, Mississippi schools are required to exclude all students and faculty diagnosed with the virus from school settings during the isolation period.

A copy of the order is shown below.

In other news, Byers said he expects new guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to mandate vaccinations for all long-term care staffers.

“It may well be that pretty soon, CMS makes it mandatory for the facilities they oversee - that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments - those long-term care facilities will be required to have their staff vaccinated,” he said during the MSMA meeting. “I think that will be coming down the pipe too. That won’t be coming from the Department of Health. That will be coming from CMS.”

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