In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, infected patients must be placed under quarantine. The state may get involved in cases where patients refuse to cooperate.
During a public health crisis, everyone must work together in order to ensure that their communities are safe and secure. However, some people place themselves and their own interests before the greater good. When that happens, the use of force may be necessary. Recently, a 53-year-old man in Kentucky tested positive for coronavirus. After he received his diagnosis, he was told he must quarantine himself to prevent spreading the disease to others he comes in contact with. He vehemently refused. Therefore, as a last-ditch resort, police officials surrounded his home, CNN reports. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear claimed it was a step he never hoped to take.
The incident took place in Nelson County, where the novel coronavirus patient's household is located. He checked himself out of the hospital after testing positive for the deadly virus though medical experts warned him against doing so. He is one of the 20 cases presently confirmed in the state. According to Nelson County Judge Executive Dean Watts, several other cases are expected to crop up in the near future, many of them a result of his irresponsible actions. The man refused to cooperate with state officials regarding self-isolation and quarantine, therefore, he was forced into isolation by police officials.
In a conference held on Sunday, Governor Beshear stated, "It's a step I hoped that I'd never have to take, but I can't allow one person who we know has this virus to refuse to protect their neighbors." At the time, the Governor did not share how deputies were able to force him into isolation. However, Nelson County Sheriff Ramon Pineiroa recently broke the silence and informed local news outlet Kentucky Standard of how they managed to do so. Reportedly, his deputies will be parked outside of the man's household for 24 hours a day for the next two weeks. According to the Sherrif, the patient is now cooperating. While the measure may seem a tad bit extreme to some, it was a necessary step to slow down the spread of the virus and protect the community at large.
Judge Executive Watts defended the measures taken by the Sheriff's office. "This is about us, not about 'I,'" he said. "We are a community, and you need to keep your community safe. You need to keep your family safe, so quarantine is a must, and if we have to, we'll do it by force." Meanwhile, though Governor Beshear was hesitant, he too shared the same sentiments. He hopes this case is a reminder to others about how to protect each other and keep the community as a whole safe. He stated, "Be a good neighbor. You know, do the right thing. That's all we're asking of people."
There are laws permitting government officials to call for forced isolation. They are, nonetheless, fairly broad and leave lots of room for interpretation. In Kentucky particularly, state law allows the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to declare and "strictly maintain" quarantine and isolation as it "deems proper," as per the National Conference of State Legislatures. Similarly, federal regulations make judicial room for forced isolation through the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which authorizes Congress "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes." In order to institute a national quarantine, the President can issue an executive order under this clause. While the Trump administration is yet to do so in the case of coronavirus, it is still a possibility.
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