TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- A judge so far has ordered four people into isolation or quarantine since the pandemic.
These people -- three of whom were former state prison inmates returning to Tippecanoe County -- were exposed to COVID-19, yet initially refused to quarantine.
At least 18 ex-convicts since the pandemic began have been exposed to COVID-19 when being released from state prisons into Tippecanoe County. State law allows them to be ordered into quarantine if they refuse to self-isolate. As a last resort, they could face up to two weeks in the county jail's isolation cells.
"There was some doubt, particularly regarding one individual, but the judge was able to convince him that isolation was a much better alternative than sitting in the jail's isolation cell," says Randy Vonderheide, the attorney representing the Tippecanoe County Health Department.
State prisons right now are hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks. Nearly 2,000 prison staff and inmates have so far tested positive for the virus, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.
These ex-convicts were initially told to self-isolate for 14 days before reporting to Tippecanoe County Community Corrections. But community corrections changed its protocol, requiring them to report within 24 hours, after several refused to comply with quarantine.
"We don't know what the Department of Corrections coaches these people about, but when they come to our community, we want to be assured that they are complying with the protocol for isolation," Vonderheide says.
Community corrections executive director Jason Huber says IDOC can't hold inmates with the virus who are scheduled for release.
"When somebody has served their time, there's no legal authority to hold them longer just because you have a medical condition, or in this case a positive COVID test," he says.
Amanda Balser with the health department says she works with IDOC and community corrections to track ex-convicts with COVID-19.
"We get released twice a week," she says. "So we work with them we make sure they have a place to go, we make sure they have food and supplies they need in order to help them quarantine and isolate."
The four communicable disease cases in the county were filed as early as April 7 and as late as Sept. 18. The health department believes no one else was exposed to the uncompliant people.