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ELIZABETH–The Jo Daviess County Board of Health at its Wednesday, Aug. 5 meeting held at the Elizabeth Nursing Home discussed the possibility of an isolation and quarantine ordinance.
The board decided to wait until there is more information on the enforcement of the quarantine, but several other members didn’t think enforcement of such a measure is possible.
Jo Daviess County State’s Attorney John Hay spoke on the matter and is working on the draft of the ordinance.
Hay said the idea behind the ordinance is to codify the state code of health orders on isolation and quarantine and determine a penalty.
Currently when someone tests positive for COVID, the Jo Daviess County Health Department calls the individual and the individual agrees over the phone to quarantine during a 14-day period.
Under the new ordinance, the individual would sign a consent to voluntarily quarantine. If the individual signs the consent and quarantines within 48 hours, everything is fine.
“However, if an individual violates the quarantine, we then have a problem,” said Hay. “That can either be a class A misdemeanor or we can pass a county ordinance and have it violate that ordinance as well.”
If the person doesn’t consent to quarantine, Hay said the matter would be sent to his office and he could file a court order to quarantine the individual.
“Basically, we have a court hearing to order the quarantine,” said Hay. “If they violate that quarantine, it would be a class A misdemeanor and contempt of court.”
Hay said the benefit of the ordinance is it would codify everything into the county code and provide further explanation to the public on how the process works.
“People are concerned that quarantines are being violated,” said Hay. “I think this codifies that we could look into it. It will also give options for us when someone violates a quarantine. I think that is the general understanding behind the idea.”
Chairperson Merri Berlage said she didn’t think the board could vote on it without having the ordinance in hand. She said county board chairperson Scott Toot reached out to Berlage to explain the reason for the ordinance.
“We have people going out and not being respectful of others by spreading it around,” said Berlage. “I do understand the concern.”
Sandra Schleicher, public health administrator, said the consent form is not currently used, but would be if agreed. It is a multi-page document created by the state.
“It is in place in the state communicable disease code that we are using to allow us to quarantine,” said Schleicher.
Schleicher said she had yet to see any other counties with a similar mandate.
Board member Hesper Nowatzki was concerned about privacy, if this ordinance were to pass.
“How does this impact private patient health information?” asked Nowatzki. “I am assuming you have a waiver when you are doing contact tracing, but this is a gray area.”
“That was my biggest concern,” said Tracy Bauer, board member. “If we are going to charge them with a misdemeanor, we would know who tested positive.”
“Where do you draw the line?” asked Nowatzki. “Any communicable disease? It seems kind of iffy to enforce something. You can put out public guidance, but this is troubling to me.”
Berlage agreed with Nowatzki and Bauer.
“We need more information,” said Nowatzki.
Board member Peg Dittmar said people not following quarantine is a concern because it impacts more than just a small group of people.
“This impacts everybody, we have to look at it in a global sense and not an individual sense,” said Dittmar.
Dittmar, who works as a nurse practitioner at Midwest Medical Center, said she gives the same message to all of her patients.
“I tell people all the time to be cautious, and be respectful,” said Dittmar. “I don’t know how many times I have had people look at me in the face (and laugh).”
Dittmar also operates Dittmar Orchard Station in Elizabeth.
“I can honestly tell you that I asked one person to put a mask on when he walked into my store and he called me a b----,” said Dittmar. “I thought that I don’t want his business–he even asked that– and I said no.”
Dittmar said even though that might get out to the community, she is protecting other people.
“That person had no business not being respectful and not being cautious,” said Dittmar.
Dittmar cautioned the severity of this disease and the impact it is having on the community.
“We aren’t just looking at a group of kids passing around STDs,” said Dittmar. “We are looking at something that is going to impact the lifespan.
“What are we going to do about it and what are we going to teach our children? We need to teach our children to be respectful and cautious. There are people who will tell you that they have COVID and are at the bar drinking. Half the people at the bar won’t think anything of it.
“What are we teaching our community? What are we teaching the kids? What are we doing to our older parents?” asked Dittmar. “How can we police them? We can’t.”
Nowatzki thought that a mask mandate by the county would be more feasible and easier to enforce than the quarantine ordinance.
“It is easier to track and determine,” said Nowatzki. “You are either wearing a mask or not.”
Bauer said there has been a mask mandate in the state since May 1.
“There are also no repercussions,” said Nowatzki.
Bauer said she thought education needed to be increased before they look at the ordinance.
Schleicher heard that the city of Galena was set to begin a mask campaign soon with signage and a consistent message.
“I think that would be helpful for the public,” said Schleicher.
“I think it comes down to each individual, each business, each church, each group about wearing a mask,” said Dittmar. “For example, the gentleman that called me a name, I gave him options for masks. I told my employees that if (customers) don’t wear a mask, don’t let them in.”
“It is something that we really have to enforce,” said Dittmar. “We aren’t picking on them because they aren’t wearing a mask, but they need to realize what they are doing to other people.”
Bauer said that health care providers need a consistent message and all employers need to be a part of it.
“I know schools have taken a hard look at it, but we need to be reaching out to other employers?” asked Bauer. “We need the same guidelines for our employees, because for some if they have one negative test they are allowed to come back to work.”
Bauer said the struggle is also a result of people not being able to be without work for 10 days or two weeks.
“Not everybody in business is on the same page, some enforce masks and others don’t,” said Nowatzki.
“There needs to be a unified front. That is where we could have enforcement guidelines. It is a public safety issue. If you are running a business and you aren’t requiring a mask, but are open to the public, now you are exposing a wide range of people at risk. That is reckless, I believe.”
The board decided that they would review the quarantine ordinance further with more details on how the ordinance would be enforced.
The board also:
•decided to not review the private sewage ordinance after a public request on the matter.
•approved the public health administrative assistant job description.
•approved the public health contact tracer/interpreter job description.
•approved a revised public health nurse job description.