Law expert: In Miss. it’s a felony to violate a quarantine order, but good luck enforcing it

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In Mississippi, violating a quarantine order could mean a fine and possible prison sentence, according to state law.

It’s also incredibly difficult to enforce and prosecute, Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey said.

“I think it’s extremely unlikely we see any of that except in the most extraordinary cases of individual people really trying to do others harm. I think absent that, it’s hard to see a prosecutor deciding that the criminal justice system really has much of anything to add," Steffey said.

State law maintains the Mississippi State Department of Health would enforce such orders.

One such option, Steffey said, would involve MSDH taking custody of someone who violates a quarantine order.

“They can actually do the quarantining themselves, removing the privilege of being able to quarantine at home. And so that’s probably the first line of reaction if it got to a point where we thought that a person was endangering the public health,” Steffey said. "One option would be to confine them to hospitals.”

However, the amount of manpower needed to be able to track patients who test positive -- to ensure compliance with quarantines issued by physicians -- would grow exponentially with the cases that continue to surface.

“I can’t imagine that there are enough health officers to babysit people who have been, who have tested positive. It’s just, it’s unimaginable. You know, we live in a state where resources are scarce. And we live in a state that has chosen to invest as little as possible it seems in some vectors of public health," Steffey said.

Many Mississippians are already practicing self-quarantines because of temporary business closures.

Remember that once you get tested, your physician or healthcare provider may order you to stay home until you get the results.

MSDH did not respond to our request for information about enforcement procedures and quarantine protocol.

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