Ky. city orders COVID-19 patients refusing to self-isolate to wear tracking devices
Officers responding to homes where tracking devices are needed have raised concerns about the lack of PPE available to them
Kala Kachmar and Darcy Costello
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two Louisville coronavirus patients and a family member have been ordered by circuit judges to isolate and wear tracking devices after health officials learned they'd been in public against medical advice.
Issuing health-related civil orders is new territory for the courts, according to Judge Charles Cunningham, who issued two Friday. The third was issued earlier this month when a South End resident who tested positive for coronavirus refused to self-isolate.
But the orders are essential for keeping the community safe when infected patients refuse to self-quarantine, officials said during Mayor Greg Fischer's Facebook Live briefing Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, seven people have died of the virus in Jefferson County and 18 across Kentucky.
"The home incarceration program is well-suited for this," said Amy Hess, the city's chief of public services, which includes oversight of Metro Corrections and Emergency Services. "It provides us with the proper amount of distancing. We can monitor activity after (the monitoring device) gets affixed to them … to make sure they're not further affecting the community.
Cunningham told The Courier Journal on Tuesday the two individuals he ordered isolated were living together, but only one had tested positive for coronavirus.
The city's health department submitted a request for the order, which indicated one of the individuals was "walking around" and the other, based on a phone call, was thought to be out of the house, Cunningham said.
Not enough Louisvillians are taking pandemic guidelines seriously, Fischer stressed again Tuesday. In addition to closing libraries, community centers, the zoo and even some parks over the past few weeks, he's instructed police to cut back on the types of calls for service officers respond to.
And, in response to a lack of respect for his orders, he even had basketball rims taken off backboards in parks.
Both Hess and Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said the biggest fear is the spread of the virus among first responders such as police officers, firefighters and ambulance workers, especially when "the surge" of coronavirus patients that's expected starts to overwhelm local hospitals.
So far, one police officer and two firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials have said. At least eight additional firefighters went into self-quarantine in connection to Louisville Fire's two positive cases.
An officer who was sent to attach ankle monitors following Friday's isolation order has a 101-degree fever and is being tested for COVID-19, said Tracy Dotson, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77, which represents the workers.
"If we're going to be doing this, fine. That's what we signed up for," Dotson said. "But we'd like to be adequately protected, as our sister agencies are. We don't think that's too big of an ask. If nothing else, just for peace of mind for those officers.
"It would make me nervous if I showed up in a paper mask and some safety goggles and I saw the two guys there to work with me from different agencies in full respirators," he added.
Steve Durham, spokesman for Metro Corrections, declined to confirm whether an officer is being tested. He also said first responders wear personal protective equipment recommended by medical professionals, which includes a gown, goggles, gloves and a mask.