By Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times Staff

  • Inslee cannot commit to a hard June 1 date to transition to Phase 2 of his “Safe Start WA” plan
  • New requirements for Phase 2: (1) progress of the virus, (2) success of contact tracing mission, and (3) public cooperation.
  • “COVID exposed” person is defined as anyone who came in contact within 6-ft for less for 10 minutes of a COVID positive person
  • Google and Apple are working with DOH and UW to deploy contract tracing apps on mobile devices
  • 700 National Guardsmen are part of the COVID tracing team making calls and collecting information for contact tracing
  • Inslee calls on President Trump to reconsider canceling funding for National Guard members assisting with COVID efforts
  • DOH Secretary John Wiesman confirmed that local health officers have the authority to place somebody into involuntary isolation or quarantine
  • SnoCo Health District stated involuntary compliance is done on a case-by-case basis and only if an individual’s actions threaten the health of the broader community

Today, May 20, Governor Jay Inslee, visited with the Washington National Guardsmen working at a Department of Health call center. The Guardsmen are taking part in the COVID-19 mapping mission to support the Department of Health.

After the tour, the governor held a press conference where he discussed COVID-19 contact tracing.  He was joined by Lt. Col. Chris Panush of the National Guard and John Wiesman, Secretary of Health for Washington state.

Possible extension of Phase 2 start

During the press conference, Inslee shared the various metrics under consideration and that he cannot commit to a hard June 1 date to transition to Phase 2.

“We can’t say June 1 now because it will depend on the progress of the virus, it depends on the success of this contact tracing mission, it depends on how many people are cooperating.  We will make a decision as we get to that date.”

Inslee added, “Bottom line is, we can’t tell you the date, it is going to be the right date.  It is not going to be too late or it is not going to be too early. It is just at the right time.”

Inslee shared his vision of the future scope to expand testing to places of large congregations of people such as long-term care facilities and food processing facilities.

“Ultimately, we want surveillance testing where we test everyone on a broad scale,” said Inslee.

Who is considered COVID exposed?

According to Wiesman, anyone who came in contact within 6-ft for less for 10 minutes of a COVID positive person is consider possibly exposed to COVID-19 or defined as a person in “close contact.”

John Wiesman
Washington state Health Secretary, John Wiesman at Jay Inslee’s May 20 press conference on contact tracing.

Contact tracing technology

Currently the Department of Health is using electronic tools to capture demographic information of cases and systems to text message those exposed or who are COVID positive about their symptoms.

Google and Apple are working with the Department of Health and the University of Washington to deploy on mobile devices an app to notify users if they were in “close contact” with someone who tested COVID positive, said Wiesman when asked to share the technology available to contact trace.

Wiesman shared that no decision has been made if to use this app, but the benefit is to notify individuals much more quickly. Inslee reinforced Wiesman’s statement saying, “this is in the exploratory phase and if this were to move forward it would be voluntary.”

National Guard efforts

Members of the national Guard are in “high morale and inspired to do the work,” said Inslee. The governor stated he was pleased with the ability to track this virus and the work of local health departments.

Lt. Col. Chris Panush
Lt. Col. Chris Panush of the National Guard at Jay Inslee’s May 20 press conference on contact tracing.

Inslee continued to emphasize the importance of the call center, “The fundamental mission here is to help Washingtonians have the knowledge they need to protect themselves and also protect their friends and neighbors and co-workers they might have had contact with.”

According to Wiesman, 1,800 local and state Department of Health employees, National Guardsmen, and members of the Department of Licensing have been trained to perform contact tracing work. To date, roughly 700 National Guardsmen are part of the COVID tracing team.

“We are really thrilled that we have the National Guard stepping up along with the public health, along with the Department of Health staff and the Department of Licensing staff,” said Wiesman.

Washington state national Guard
Gov. Inslee Visits Guardsmen at Call Center. Tumwater, Wash. May 20, 2020. Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National Guard. Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

According to Lt. Col. Panush, the National Guard has been contacting COVID positive and exposed individuals to assist with contact tracing.

“This is a great mission for us. The national Guard has a long history of helping out our neighbors in the state of Washington for many many years and this is no different… All the folks upstairs who are making these calls had a great opportunity to learn from the Department of Health under the direct supervision of the Department of Health.”

Failure is not an option

In a statement, FEMA acknowledged that President Donald Trump’s current order for the federal government to fund National Guard members currently helping states for the coronavirus effort expires on June 24. Inslee hopes the Federal Government would revisit this policy within the upcoming weeks stressing that failure is not an option.

Jay Inslee
Governor Jay Inslee at his May 20 press conference on contact tracing.

“We have to have success of contact tracing and isolation.  It is the only way we will be on top of this virus. So, failure is not an option.  If we get a spike, we will have to bring in more National Guardsmen or will have to get more state employees or we will be hiring people from the general public.”

Not all local counties are in favor of contact tracing according the Wiesman. He advocated for local elected leaders to support their local health districts so those districts can transition to Phase 2.

Inslee continued, “One way or another, we are going to be on top of this contact tracing thing. It is fundamental to our health.”

Washington state national Guard
Gov. Inslee Visits Guardsmen at Call Center. Tumwater, Wash. May 20, 2020. Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National Guard. Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

Inslee asked that Washingtonians voluntarily cooperate and provide the names of those you have been in contact with.

“If you receive a call from a person from the contact tracing team, you will be asked to provide the names of those people you have been in contact with…persons contacted will not know the name of the person who provided their name to respect a person’s privacy,” said Inslee.

“For the mission to succeed, it really takes people to take care of themselves in their homes for 14 days after the test and that is not just the person who is positive but everyone in the household. So your kids, your spouse and everyone else living with you.  We all need to stay home for 14 days and this is a challenge sometimes, but it is absolutely necessary to keep people from getting infected because the chance of the infection getting out of the household is extreme.”

According to Wiesman, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and proper hygiene are preventative measures to contracting the virus.  Wiesman emphasized the ability to identify individuals and test quickly are key to minimizing the rate of COVID infections.

“My main message and takeaway here is that we all have a role in prevention and it starts with each an every one of us as individuals… this is how we are going to get through this together,” said Wiesman.

For those individuals who voluntarily quarantine or isolate, Inslee stated he is looking at amending his current order to offer protections so they cannot lose their job. Inslee called on friends and families to also help those in isolation.

“We hope people can help families that need to isolate at home during that period. Friends and neighbors can do their grocery shopping and drop them off, so the family doesn’t have to go to the grocery store. That will be very helpful.”

Involuntary Isolation or Quarantine

When asked if the Department of Health has the authority to force anyone into quarantine or isolation and under what circumstances to do so Wisemans responded:

“The local health officer really has the authority in their communities. The local health officer does have the authority in certain circumstances if someone isn’t going to voluntarily agree to isolate or quarantine and they believe they are a threat to the community, the local health officer can place somebody into isolation or quarantine. It is not used that often and it is a rarely used thing…”

Wiseman also stressed this is why contract tracers need to build rapport and ask possible cases the challenges to staying home. Wiesman shared that the goal of the Department of Health is to always start with voluntary compliance.

Because the authority to involuntarily quarantine or isolate falls under the local health officer, who for Snohomish County is Dr. Christopher Spitters, the Lynnwood Times reached out to the Snohomish County Health District inquiring on the potential consequences for an individual that refuses self-isolation or quarantine.

According to the spokesperson, the decisions on whether to pursue involuntary compliance is done on a case-by-case basis and if an individual’s actions threaten the health of the broader community.

“The process generally starts with a discussion to educate them about why it’s important to remain at home to self-quarantine or isolate. If they disregard that, there’s a verbal warning. After a verbal warning, a Health Officer’s Order could be issued compelling them to isolate or quarantine. The last step is to determine if court action is needed to enforce isolation,” wrote Heather Thomas, Public & Government Affairs Manager, Snohomish Health District.

Thomas would like residents to know that the vast majority of people are voluntarily following orders to isolate or quarantine and that, to date, the county has not issued a Health Officer’s Order nor pursued legal action for involuntary compliance related to COVID-19.

Mario Lotmore

Mario Lotmore is originally from The Bahamas and for the last seven years has called Mukilteo, WA his home. Having lived in every region of the United States has exposed him to various cultures, people, and approaches to life. Lotmore created the Lynnwood Times to represent the character of a diverse and growing Lynnwood. The launching of the city’s free community newspaper will only help bring neighborhoods together. Lotmore was an industrial engineer by trade and proven success implementing and managing lean accountable processes and policies within his eighteen years of operations excellence, strategic development, and project management in the aerospace, manufacturing, and banking industries. Over his career he has saved and created hundreds of union and non-union jobs. Lotmore is the President of a Homeowner Association, an active Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics volunteer in his community, and former Boeing 747 Diversity Council leader. Mario’s talent is finding “that recipe” of shared destiny to effectively improve the quality of life for others.

Mario Lotmore has 525 posts and counting. See all posts by Mario Lotmore

19 thoughts on “Local health officers have authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine

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  • May 22, 2020 at 2:58 PM
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    Who’s puppet is this guy Inslee?

    Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 3:13 AM
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    And I have an unalienable right to be secure in my home. As well as an unalienable right to defend myself with force if anybody tries to remove me from my home without a duly sworn warrant.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 7:29 PM
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    “We have to have success of contact tracing and isolation. It is the only way we will be on top of this virus. So, failure is not an option…Inslee continued, “One way or another, we are going to be on top of this contact tracing thing.
    He is obsessed with contact tracing…Who is really behind it? Why is there no option? Sounds like he’s holding hostage everyone until everyone complies…one way or another! This should be a red flag.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 5:40 PM
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    We have the Constitution to protect Citizens. Before Covid-19 we didnt go out whenever we had a cold, because we didn’t want to make anyone catch our cold or flu. I wouldn’t go out not especially with this virus, however, in my own judgement if we are well we will go out. Please stop the socialism keep America free. Free to make wise choices, free to open business free to do whatever before Covid-19. The government knew about the virus did nothing. Sent people to rehab centers after a hospital stay knowing full well that they would infect the elderly. Is that why they stated that population was most vulnerable. I think that the government is trying to eliminate the population become socialist use Marshall law and take away our freedom. The leftist will do anything to try to take President Trump out of office and will go to the extreme to do so. We are thankful President Trump is running the country and look forward for his reelection

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 4:22 PM
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    They can go screw themselves. Authority my ass.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 5:18 PM
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      Inslee is going to get people killed

      Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 2:23 PM
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    Impeach or recall Inslee and the attorney Geneal if they persist in this direction – the health crisis has long passed but they are dead-set , it would seem, on creating a constitutional crisis.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2020 at 2:17 PM
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    Does anyone else see a problem with the government tracking your every move, while our civil rights have been stripped from us. Do you honestly believe that the government will cease ‘contract tracing’ at the close of this pandemic? Its kind of like a toll bridge saying they will stop collecting tolls once the bridge is paid for, but the tolls continue. Don’t be fooled people.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 5:39 PM
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      Yes they want to create fear in everyone do Marshall law and have a socialistic nature. I believe that’s why the handout to make the
      Government officials look good. People who are takers will grab hold and want this because they want freebies nothing is for free. The biggest price is losing our freedom

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 7:17 PM
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      Yes, and you don’t even know who said you were exposed…that’s kept secret!! Smells fishy to me!

      Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 7:31 PM
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      Yes, and you don’t even know who said you were exposed…that’s kept secret!! Smells fishy to me!

      Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 10:17 PM
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    I dont think so douche bag! Reguardless of wether or not …..you are not a doctor inslee! Nor are you a meteorologist…nor are you trust worthy because youre an agenda following worm! In case you havent figured that out? Yeah we know! You have over stepped your scope of power just like your bullshit court systems…..pick another career path pal!

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 9:14 PM
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    To enforce an involuntary isolation or quarantine the Health Officer must legally serve the citizen in writing, with the following notification paragraph, “You have the right to petition the superior court for release from isolation or quarantine in accordance with WAC 246-100-055. You have a right to legal counsel. If you are unable to afford legal counsel, then counsel will be appointed for you at government expense and you should request the appointment of counsel at this time. If you currently have legal counsel, then you have an opportunity to contact that counsel for assistance.” That is the opportunity for the citizen to get in front of a judge and challenge the anonymous nature of the “charge”, i.e. the theoretical covid positive who says they were exposed; challenge what proof is there that the “positive” test was actually tested or a “presumptive positive”, meaning fever and congestion and a negative flu test. (There are over 100 ILI- Influenza Like Illnesses, which have flu like symptoms but do not test positive for the flu). The citizen can challenge the efficacy of the test, etc.
    People need to become familiar with the actual laws that govern infection control while still respecting the constitutional protections. https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-100-040

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 5:35 PM
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      You really are taking away the Constitution. We have the Constitution to protect Citizens. Before Covid-19 we didnt go out whenever we had a cold, because we didn’t want to make anyone catch our cold or flu. I wouldn’t go out not especially with this virus, however, in my own judgement if we are well we will go out. Please stop the socialism keep America free. Free to make wise choices, free to open business free to do whatever before Covid-19. The government knew about the virus did nothing. Sent people to rehab centers after a hospital stay knowing full well that they would infect the elderly. Is that why they stated that population was most vulnerable. I think that the government is trying to eliminate the population become socialist use Marshall law and take away our freedom. The leftist will do anything to try to take President Trump out of office and will go to the extreme to do so. We are thankful President Trump is running the country and look forward for his reelection

      Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 2:11 AM
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      Yeah….. and hope you don’t get a dirty Judge in there Gov’s back pocket!

      Reply

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