Mississippi threatens up to 5 years in jail, $5,000 fines for COVID-19 patients who don’t isolate

Mississippi’s top health official Friday threatened possible jail time and fines for people diagnosed with COVID-19 who don’t isolate, NBC News reported.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs issued a “COVID-19 isolation order” on Friday, which told people they “must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19.”

Any individuals infected with COVID-19 “must remain in the home or other appropriate residential location for 10 days from onset of illness or 10 days from the date of a positive test for those who are asymptomatic.”

“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 or imprisonment for six months or both,” the order states.

Those infected with a life-threatening disease who refuse to “obey the lawful order of a health officer is a felony,” punishable with potential fines of up to $5,000 and/or five years in jail, according to the order.

“Persons infected with COVID-19 should limit exposure to household contacts,” the order reads. “No visitors should be allowed in the home. Please stay in a specific room away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if available.”

“A negative test for COVID-19 is not required to end isolation at the end of 10 days, but you must be fever free for at least 24 hours with improvement of other symptoms,” the order states.

At Friday’s press conference unveiling the new order, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers noted, “Mississippi… 25,000 cases in the last seven days, but our rate is 843 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days. These numbers are staggering guys.”

Mississippi reported 5,048 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, surpassing the previous record of 5,023 cases from the previous Friday. There were 54 coronavirus deaths reported on Friday. As of Wednesday, there were 1,660 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, 457 were in the ICU, and 324 were on ventilators, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Only 36% of people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the second least-vaccinated state, trailing only Alabama.

Mississippi also rolled out 40 locations offering monoclonal antibody treatments, which can be used to treat mild to moderate infections when COVID-19 is detected early.

“If you’re someone who is vaccine-hesitant and haven’t made that jump yet, don’t be antibody-hesitant,” Dobbs said. “If you get COVID, we don’t want to be having the conversation as you’re getting wheeled into the ICU, saying, ‘Hey Doc, what can I do about it?’ Now it’s too late.”