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The Mississippi Department of Health issued a COVID-19 isolation order on Friday that requires those who are infected with COVID-19 to self-isolate or face fines and possible jail time.
Once people learn they have COVID-19, they must remain at home or isolate at an “appropriate residential location” for 10 days. The order includes those who are fully vaccinated and those who receive a positive test but don’t have any symptoms.
“Persons infected with COVID-19 should limit exposure to household contacts,” Thomas Dobbs, MD, the state health officer, wrote in the order.
If family members need to be around each other in the home, the infected person should wear a face mask, he added.
“No visitors should be allowed in the home,” he said. “Please stay in a specific room away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if available.”
A negative test isn’t required to end isolation at the end of 10 days, according to the order, but infected people must be without a fever for 24 hours and show an improvement in other symptoms.
In addition, K-12 schools in Mississippi are required to exclude all students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 from school settings during the 10-day isolation period.
If people don’t follow the order, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and punished with a $500 fine or 6 months of jail — or both. When a life-threatening disease is involved, such as COVID-19, refusing to obey a public health order in Mississippi can lead to a felony charge, a $5,000 fine, and 5 years of jail time.
During the past week, Mississippi’s COVID-19 cases have surged to the highest point so far, nearly doubling the last peak in January. The state reported more than 5,000 new cases on Thursday, which is the most recorded in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, according to CDC data.
Mississippi hospitals also have more COVID-19 patients than at any other time during the pandemic, with 1,660 patients hospitalized, according to state health department data.
Vaccination rates have remained low in Mississippi, with about 37% fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center, announced Friday that all staff and students will be required to get vaccinated, according to Fox News. The hospital previously said employees and students could skip vaccination if they wore N95 masks.
“COVID-19 in Mississippi is a raging wildfire, but not everyone is helping throw water on the flames in their own backyard,” Alan Jones, MD, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the medical center, wrote in a letter to staff and students.
In the internal memo, Jones noted that Mississippi is leading the world in new COVID-19 cases per capita.
“We — as an institution and as the workforce for the state’s leading health system — need to be a leader in this fight,” he said.
Mississippi Department of Health: “COVID-19 Isolation Order, August 20, 2021.”
CDC: “Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory.”
Mississippi Department of Health: “Hospitalizations and ICU Use (Statewide).”
Johns Hopkins University: “Coronavirus Resource Center: Mississippi.”
Fox News: “Mississippi orders coronavirus-infected individuals to isolate at home or face up to 5 years in prison.”
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