Some Seminole County COVID-19 patients are still going out in public

Executive order issued to punish those who violate self-quarantine rule

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by coronavirus, some patients in Seminole County are refusing to follow the self-quarantine standards and going out in public, potentially putting others at risk.

Alan Harris, the chief administrator for the Seminole County Office of Emergency Management, said he was stunned to find out about five of the 168 patients in the county have left the house to run errands and do certain other tasks even after being diagnosed.

“There should be no reason for someone to go out of their house except blatant disregard for their community," Harris said.

[READ: Seminole County releases heat map of coronavirus cases | Coronavirus: Here’s how many hospital beds are available in Florida]

COVID-19 is spread from person to person when someone who is infected sneezes or coughs and releases respiratory droplets into the surrounding environment, which is why anyone who has or suspects they have the illness is asked to stay home and avoid all contact with others for at least two weeks.

Harris said the current protocol is to call those who have either tested positive, are awaiting test results or are under investigation to make sure that they aren’t leaving their residence for any reason, not even to go to a grocery store or pharmacy.

There have been instances of patients not answering those calls and when they finally get back in touch, they admit that they left the house for one reason or another.

Harris said those violators have not been forthcoming with information and won’t say specifically where they went.

To ensure that COVID-19 patients stay home, the county on Friday issued an executive order that levies a $500 fine against anyone who leaves their house, unless for medical reasons, after testing positive for coronavirus.

[RELATED: Interactive map shows Florida cities with coronavirus cases | Seminole County leaders say social distancing order in effect along with statewide stay-at-home mandate]

They also cannot have physical interaction with other people outside their household until they’re cleared by a doctor or the Florida Department of Health.

According to county leaders, the ultimate goal is to educate rather than punish but they’re willing to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of coronavirus, especially since there is already moderate to substantial community transmission in the county.

”This is extremely scary, this is extremely serious and we will not tolerate it in Seminole County,” Harris said.

Seminole County officials did say that charities are dropping off food and other basic items to quarantined individuals so they don’t need to leave their homes.

Officials will continue their current surveillance methods and are also asking neighbors and members of the community to report a possible self-quarantine violation by calling the citizen hotline at 407-665-0000.

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