Mississippi’s health officer issues order to punish COVID isolation violators with up to 5 years in prison

By Harry Wilmerding

Mississippi will punish residents who don’t isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 with up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines, the state’s Department of Health announced on Friday.

“All persons, including fully vaccinated individuals, infected with COVID-19 must remain in the home or other appropriate residential location for 10 days from onset of illness,” state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs ordered. “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.”

Dobbs wrote that if the disease is life-threatening or citizens refuse or disobey the order, the punishment is a “fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to five years or both.”

Mississippi now has the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1,600 have been hospitalized as of Wednesday, according to the Mississippi Department of Health. The state saw 7,249 new positive tests for the three-day period between Aug. 20 to Aug 22, and 56 new deaths.

Over a third of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, well below the national average of 52%, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

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