A health department official in Spokane, Washington was forced to throw a man in jail for refusing to quarantine despite being positive for the Wuhan coronavirus.
Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer Bob Lutz issued the order on Thursday, citing a public health emergency.
According to agency spokesperson Kelli Hawkins, the person is homeless and suffers from mental health issues stemming from alcohol and drug abuse, the Spokesman-Review reported. On top of that, Hawkins said public health officials were “dealing with an individual who didn’t want to isolate.”
Health District officials said the man had other options, like quarantining at SRHD's isolation facility. The agency has encouraged homeless people to shelter there while they wait for their test results or if they tested positive for the coronavirus. Not only do they have a place to stay but they're also provided with meals, free of charge.
Dr. Lutz, Spokane County Board of Commissioners and SRHD attempted to find an isolation facility that could be used for the man's quarantine. They were willing to place a correctional guard outside throughout the duration of the quarantine but came up empty-handed.
“The vast majority of people who are living homeless or in a shelter do have options that do not include incarceration,” Hawkins explained.
Law enforcement officials were not involved in the man's arrest. Paramedics used an ambulance to transport the man to the jail in downtown Spokane.
“It is challenging. I don’t know that this has ever happened before,” Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer explained. “To me, I think there is an ethical issue. It’s a medical ethical issue of protecting the public, while at the same time trying to protect the patient and his or her rights. That’s a fine line to walk.”
The order is in effect until July 11th. Should the need for a longer quarantine period arises, Lutz will have to petition the courts.