Kentucky Couple Under House Arrest for Not Signing Quarantine Papers After COVID-Positive Test

Local court orders placed a Kentucky family under house arrest to ensure they comply with mandatory self-isolation orders, which require individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to avoid contact with others and notify health authorities about any travel plans.

Elizabeth Linscott, a resident of Kentucky's Hardin County, near Louisville, learned she contracted the new coronavirus after taking a precautionary diagnostic test earlier this month, WAVE 3 News reported on Friday. Linscott told the outlet she did not show symptoms associated with COVID-19. Regardless, a representative from the Hardin County Heath Department contacted her following the diagnosis to explain next steps.

Similar to risk management procedures effected in other U.S. states, Kentucky's health protocols involve case investigators and contact tracers in reducing the risk of virus transmission. People assigned to these roles are tasked with collecting information from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, subsequently overseeing their isolation and eventually certifying release from quarantine.

The Hardin County Health Department representative who reached out to Linscott asked her to sign a Self-Isolation and Controlled Movement Agreed Order, according to WAVE 3 News. The document intended to formally confirm Linscott's compliance with quarantine measures and limited travel outside of her residence until receiving a follow-up diagnostic assessment and testing negative.

Linscott decided not to sign the order.

"My part was if I have to go to the ER, if I have to go to the hospital, I'm not going to wait to get the approval to go," she told the news outlet. Linscott noted that she did agree to notify the health department about intentions to leave her home for any reason.

She received a text message from the health department soon after, ABC 13 reported. Linscott said the message stated: "Because of your refusal to sign [the Self-Isolation and Controlled Movement Agreed Order], this is going to be escalated, and law enforcement will be involved."

Officers from the Hardin County Sheriff's Office arrived at Linscott's home several days later. They served a notice from the county court ordering Linscott and her husband, Isaiah, to wear ankle monitors that will prevent them from venturing more than 200 feet from their property. The monitors will alert local authorities if they do.

"On Thursday, July 16, 2020, The Hardin County Sheriff delivered Notices of Orders to Isolate and Quarantine as directed by the Court, just as we deliver thousands of Court Notices each month as part of our duties as the Sheriff's Office," said Hardin County Sheriff John Ward in a statement sent to Newsweek on Monday.

"The Hardin County Sheriff's Office did not install location monitoring devices on anyone in Hardin County. We have no open cases, nor have we had any cases, involving the enforcement of a failure to isolate for positive COVID-19 testing," the statement continued. "The Court action that resulted in the Notices delivered by the Hardin County Sheriff's Office on [Thursday] is a confidential case. Therefore, the Hardin County Sheriff's will not be making any further comment and cannot release any documents or additional information unless directed by a Court."

Newsweek reached out to Linscott and the Hardin County Health Department for comments but did not receive replies in time for publication.

Kentucky authorities have used ankle monitoring devices to enforce isolation orders before. In April, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) placed residents of Jefferson County, adjacent to Hardin County, under house arrest after a handful of individuals reportedly failed to quarantine following diagnosis with COVID-19, according to ABC News. Kathy Turner, LMPHW's communications director, told Newsweek the agency has since stopped using ankle monitors to enforce quarantine directives.

"We did very early in the pandemic. But we reevaluated that and don't believe a law enforcement approach is the effective way to gain compliance," Turner said. "Criminalizing health issues doesn't align with our agency goals. We believe when we can help people safely isolate and have their essential needs met it's a more effective approach. We also believe it's best to reach out to individuals through people they trust and relate to who can help share information and instructions and gain cooperation."

This story was updated on Monday, July 20, to include Ward's statement and Turner's comments.

Kentucky COVID
A poll station employee wears protective gloves on June 23 in Louisville, Kentucky. Brett Carlsen/Getty