The state health officer for Mississippi issued a COVID-19 isolation order on Friday, telling people that if they test positive for COVID-19 and refuse to self-isolate, they could face fines or possible jail time.
In his isolation order, Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said that people have to isolate themselves at home once they become aware that they are infected. People are expected to remain home for 10 days after becoming ill or testing positive for COVID-19, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated.
“A negative test for COVID-19 is not required to end isolation at the end of 10 days, but you must be fever free for at least 24 hours with improvement of other symptoms,” the order said.
The order stated that refusal to obey could include several fines or punishments. Someone who refuses to obey the order of a health official could receive a $500 fine, up to six months in jail or both. However, when a life-threatening disease is involved, the refusal to obey the order could include up to $5,000 in fines, five years of jail time or both.
Mississippi has started to see its third, and highest, peak of COVID-19 cases. The state saw 5,048 new cases on Thursday, the most it has recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cases had been reported in as low as the double digits and hundreds in June, in comparison.
The state has been struggling with a relatively low vaccination rate — only 37 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Because the state has struggled to contain the virus, a staggering 20,000 students in Mississippi had to be quarantined after the first week of school, NBC News reported.