A closer look at Nevada's mandatory quarantine law

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) We've seen the pictures from across the world.

Health officials trying to stop the spread of the Novel coronavirus.

A cruise ship was ordered to dock in Japan with no passenger allowed to leave after 10 people on the vessel tested positive and were hospitalized for the disease.

Here in the United States, military bases are being used as quarantine sites for Americans who are suspected of being exposed to the virus.

"Holding people in quarantine during the course of an incubation period is the way that we can make sure that people who may become ill, don't become ill when they are walking around the community,” says Dr. James Lawlor from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

But what if someone refused to go under quarantine?

Here in Nevada, that is not a choice.

“Cancer patients or you know, people with immune diseases, they have a right to live their lives and not be afraid they are going to contract disease because someone hasn't been quarantined,” says Judge Bridget Robb with the Family Court Second Judicial District. “So we have to weigh those things," she says.

Judge Robb says a state law covers involuntary quarantine.

The law kicks in once a health district, in a local case the Washoe County Health District, has a good faith belief a person has been exposed to a dangerous virus or other disease or has tested positive to it.

If the patient refuses quarantine, the health district initially has 72 hours to hold the patient.

The case would then head to family court in a 2nd Judicial District courtroom.

“The person who is contesting the quarantine has to be examined by a panel,” says Judge Robb. “That panel has to be two doctors or a doctor and a physician’s assistant. They have to make their determination as to whether this person either has the disease or has been exposed to the disease and could pass that communicable disease on,” she says.

Judge Robb says other agencies will be involved in the proceeding like the district attorney’s office, public defender’s and even the health facility holding the patient in quarantine.

Judge Robb says while the court may rule the patient must stay in quarantine, the patient can refuse treatment.

They may cite religious reasons.

If the patient is deemed mentally incompetent to make a treatment decision, the court will make that decision as well.

Patients could be held for up to 120 days before another court status hearing.

The law has been updated by the Nevada Legislature occasionally to keep up-to-date with the times.

The quarantined patient is allowed a cell phone, iPad or computer to communicate with the outside world.

While Judge Robb and court administration is on-call 24 hours a day seven days a week, should a decision like this ever have to be made--she has yet to receive such a call.

Because a mandatory quarantine case deals with issues like patient privacy as well as patient safety, such hearings and decisions would be closed to the public.

The court is prohibited by law from disclosing such cases and decisions.

The patient will have an attorney represent him or her during all court action.

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