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Kentucky judges have started imposing a form of house arrest on stubborn coronavirus patients who break their self-isolation orders, in an effort to stop them from spreading the disease known as COVID-19.
Circuit judges have ordered two coronavirus patients and one patient’s relative to wear ankle monitors in Louisville, Ky., after they broke quarantine orders, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.
The first order was handed down after a patient broke self-quarantine to go shopping on March 21, according to court documents obtained by station WTVO.
Public health officials can ask for a person to be isolated for coronavirus under state law, and it’s up to a circuit judge to approve or deny the order. Affected individuals are not charged with a crime.
Judge Charles Cunningham ordered two relatives to wear ankle monitors on March 27, after one tested positive for the disease and both refused to stay indoors. The monitors are being used to ensure that law enforcement can keep people from spreading the virus.
“It’s something we’re all feeling our way through,” Cunningham told the Courier-Journal. “We’re trying to figure out how this should be done.”
Local officials say they desperately need people to follow the rules for the greater good, especially after multiple police and firefighters were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says the region is grappling with more than 200 cases of the virus, and he needs people to take it seriously and practise their social distancing.
“The more we all stay at home, the safer we’re all going to be,” Fischer said on Tuesday, according to Wave 3 News.
“We would prefer not to have to do this at all,” Amy Hess, the city’s chief of public services, told the Courier-Journal.
However, Hess says the house arrest approach is “well-suited” to enforcing social distancing, when necessary.
“We can monitor activity … to make sure they’re not further affecting the community.”
Kentucky is one of many jurisdictions in the United States where the coronavirus has triggered a tug of war between individual freedoms and the greater public good.
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In Florida and Louisiana, for example, a handful of megachurch leaders have refused to call off massive religious gatherings, despite fears that the coronavirus could spread like wildfire through a closely-packed congregation.
Young people have also been occasionally shamed as “COVIDIOTS” for refusing to cancel party plans, including spring break festivities, amid the outbreak.
Health officials around the world have recommended avoiding large gatherings and staying away from other people to help slow the spread of the virus.
They’ve also pointed out that self-isolation is not about protecting patients with the virus. It’s about protecting others from getting sick and dying after coming in contact with an infected person.
No penalty has been specified for those who break quarantine while wearing an ankle monitor in Kentucky.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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