CALDWELL, Idaho — The Southwest District Health Department has thus far issued five orders of isolation/quarantine and orders to report for examination to people who health officials have been unable to contact and who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Both Idaho Code and the Department of Health and Welfare Idaho Administrative Code gives health officials the power to use the legal orders in the interest of public health.
Of the five orders, four were issued to residents of Canyon County and one was issued in Gem County. Southwest District Health services Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette and Washington counties.
“The Order to report for examination was used in each instance because staff from SWDH were unable to make contact with individuals confirmed to have COVID-19 to conduct an investigation,” said SWDH spokesperson Katrina Williams in an e-mail. “The purpose of the Isolation Order is to ensure that individuals testing positive for COVID-19 remain isolated and do not expose others to the virus while they are contagious. Southwest District Health asks that contagious individuals voluntarily comply with our direction; however, when they are unable to be reached, we provide the Order of Isolation in addition to the Order to Report for Examination.”
Prior to issuing each order, the SWDH staff said they made several attempts to contact those who tested positive. “(Generally speaking), if communication efforts are unsuccessful, we coordinate with our local prosecuting attorney and law enforcement partners to have the individual served with the orders. An affidavit of good cause accompanies the orders and sets out the communication attempts made by staff, the reporting physician, the lab that processed the screening, and any reason stated for the request of the COVID-19 screening,” Williams explained.
The order for isolation requires the individual to isolate at a certain place or places. If the place of isolation is other than the individual’s place of residence, a copy of the order is also provided to the person in charge of that location. The orders to report for examination require the individual to make contact with SWDH epidemiologists by telephone within a specified timeframe. “In these instances, the individuals were given until noon on the business day following the day they received service of the order,” Williams said.
In each case, the order for isolation will be withdrawn once it is determined by the Public Health District Director that there is no longer a significant threat to the public’s health which is 72 hours following the individual’s last symptoms.
A person who violates an order of isolation or quarantine may be guilty of a misdemeanor under Idaho Code. “To date, all individuals issued an order have quickly complied with our requests, and we are grateful for their cooperation as we work to control the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Williams added.
Once the infected person makes contact with health department officials, an investigation is then conducted to discover where the individual may have been exposed and to identify individuals who may have come into close contact with the person confirmed to have the illness. The purpose of the investigation is to limit and stop the spread of disease to others, officials said.
A spokesperson for the Central District Health Department -– which services Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties –- says the CDHD has not yet issued any orders of isolation or quarantine related to the COVID-19 outbreak.