KEY WEST, FL - August 7, 2020 - According to an online news report published on Jacksonville.com, a man was taking his dog for a walk closeby to his home. The man's neighbor, using her cell phone, began to video record the man walking his dog. A few hours after the man returned inside, law enforcement showed up at the man's home with a warrant for the man and his wife's arrest. The couple were taken to the Monroe County Jail and booked on "Violating Quarantine After Testing Positive for COVID-19."
Key West City Manager Greg Veliz stated that once the health department tells an individual to quarantine, it is not a debatable situation. He also stated that as long as there is a law on the books that gives law enforcement the authority to arrest someone violating a quarantine order, violators must be arrested if they don't abide by the law. The Key West city manager stated that the couple was arrested when police got a complaint with a video revealing the two who were potentially violating a lawful quarantine order, which was imposed on the couple by state public health department.
Florida has become a national hot spot for the pandemic, and Florida's public health officials are urging people to social distance and wear masks. However, public health officials have the lawful authority to order people infected with the virus to self-quarantine. Florida officials stated that the couple was told they were infected with the coronavirus on July 15, 2020. The couple was ordered to wear face masks inside their home—a house with three bedrooms that the couple shares with three other tenants. The couple was also ordered to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. The Florida Department of Health was notified that the couple was at a grocery store on July 20, 2020. The Department of Health stated that the couple was a "present an immediate danger of harm to others," since they were shopping while potentially still infected. The Department of Health issued a mandatory quarantine order upon the two Key West residents.
Police stated that they receive the video of the couple, and this was a possible violation of the mandatory quarantine order. Police asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant for the couple. The couple posted bail and were released. The couple was shocked about being arrested by the police. The couple faces a misdemeanor charge. The couple hypothesized that their arrest was the result of a bad relationship with one of the tenants.
The man stated that he was just walking the dog so the dog could use the bathroom. The man stated that he was shocked when the police showed up at his house, and he was told that he was under arrest.
A law professor at Florida State University, Michael Morley, stated that government officials could have lawful grounds to handle quarantine violations a little more aggressively to enforce Florida public health rules. They could force people to wear masks when in public places, which is mandatory in Key West.
The Key West couple is scheduled to appear before a judge on August 10, 2020.