The Washington State Board of Health on January 12 will be receiving a briefing on the progress of the technical advisory group to consider making the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for children to attend school.
Additionally, the board will also be considering proposed rule changes to that would include COVID under Communicable and Certain Other Diseases as defined by the state, and as such under Washington state law, an individual who fails to comply with a health order issued would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
State law also allows local health officers to utilize law enforcement to involuntarily detain a person or group of persons (families) for isolation and quarantine following refusal to voluntary comply with requests for medical examination, testing, treatment, counseling, vaccination.
According to a Jan 5 email obtained by The Post Millennial, "The Board is continuing a November rules hearing on the proposed rule changes to chapter 246-100 WAC, Communicable and Certain Other Diseases, as published in WSR 21-20-127."
"The Board is proposing updating its rules to reflect current state law."
Under the RCWs cited "A person who violates or fails to comply with a health order issued under RCW 70.24.024 is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable by confinement until the order has been complied with or terminated, up to a maximum period of three hundred sixty-four days."
"In lieu of confinement, the court may place the defendant on probation upon condition that the defendant comply with the health order, up to the length of the health order. If the defendant is placed on probation and subsequently violates or fails to comply with the health order, the court shall revoke the probation and reinstate the original sentence of confinement."
The BOH claimed that the agenda item regarding these changes "…is related to rulemaking on chapter 246-100 WAC it is scoped only to the implementation of ESHB 1551 (Chapter 76, Laws of 2020) and does not include changes to isolation and quarantine policies."
The purpose of updating the rules is "…to revise chapter 246-100 WAC to assure consistency with the statutory requirements and protect public health and safety."
"Revisions include, but are not limited to: (1) Establishing reporting requirements and procedures for investigations for sexually transmitted diseases; (2) specifying behavior that endangers the public health; (3) defining specimens that can be obtained and tests that can be administered for sexually transmitted diseases, blood-borne pathogens, and other infections; (4) determining categories of employment that are at risk of substantial exposure to a blood-borne pathogen; and (5) defining what constitutes an exposure that presents a possible risk of transmission of a blood-borne pathogen."
ESHB 1551 which was originally instituted to modernize "...the control of certain communicable diseases," specifically AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases would be updated to reflect the changes and become broader for what qualifies as a "communicable disease" under the bill.
The passage of the bill by the legislature in 2020 also included defelonizing intentionally exposing someone to HIV.
ESHB 1551 also states, "The health officer may apply to the superior court for a court order requiring a person to comply with the health order if the person fails to comply with the health order. At a hearing, the person subject to the order may have an attorney appear on his or her behalf at the public's expense, if necessary. A person who violates or fails to comply with a health order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable by confinement until the order has been complied with or terminated. In lieu of confinement, the court may place the person on probation upon the condition that the person comply with the order for the time period of the order. If the person is placed on probation and subsequently violates or fails to comply, the court must revoke the probation and reinstate the original sentence of confinement."
A document listing changes to the bill defines "Quarantine" as, "...means the limitation of freedom of movement of persons or domestic animals that have been exposed to, or are suspected to have been exposed to, an infectious agent:
(a) For a period of time not longer than the longest usual incubation period of the infectious agent.
(b) In a way to prevent effective contact with those not so exposed."
The document also describes the duties of "local health officers" which include "…when necessary, conduct investigations and institute disease control and contamination control measures, including medical examination, testing, counseling, treatment, vaccination, decontamination of persons or animals, isolation, quarantine, vector control, condemnation of food supplies, and inspection and closure of facilities, consistent with those indicated in the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 20th edition, published by the American Public Health Association, or other measures they deem necessary based on their professional judgment, current standards of practice, and the best available medical and scientific information."
According to the document, "An order issued by a local health officer in accordance with this chapter shall constitute the duly authorized application of lawful rules adopted by the board and must be enforced by all police officers, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and employees of any political subdivisions within the jurisdiction of the health department in accordance with RCW 43.20.050."
In September it was revealed that The Washington State Department of Health was recruiting applicants for a new unit called the "Isolation and Quarantine Strike Team," which would pay a salary of between $3,294-4,286 per month.
Ginny Streeter from the Washington State Department of Health told The Post Millennial that, the "People who utilize the state Isolation and Quarantine facility would be those who do not necessarily reside in a specific county." Those would include travelers as well as "people on vessels that have outbreaks on their ships who berth on the Washington Coast."
This would also include "International and interstate travelers who test positive at SeaTac airport may also stay at this facility."
Streeter also said that "This could also include DOC (Department of Corrections) work release individuals and those who reside in Farmworker Housing" and added that "Because we do house work release individuals, there are DOC on site 24 hours per day."
Streeter said the team "will also provide occasional support to local government" and that any individuals who fit into those categories may be transported to this facility. According to Streeter, the program was authorized by Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah.
Streeter said that any decision concerning mandatory isolation and quarantine for travelers would be made by Washington State Democrat Governor Jay Inslee, and not the Department of Health.
Duties for the new Strike Team members listed on the website included:
- Maintaining the readiness of the isolation and quarantine strike team, facilities, and equipment.
- Providing direct services to the public at the I & Q facility to include: check-in, providing technical assistance, purchasing groceries and supplies for the site and guests, distributing food and resources, assisting with inventory of resources, and ensuring all guests receive excellent customer service.
- Assisting nurses on performing rounds.
- Maintaining facility cleanliness and processing guest laundry.
- Providing guest transport to and from the I & Q facility.
- Prepping the I & Q facility to receive guests, ensuring rooms are stocked and have been properly cleaned.
- Providing outreach, education, and technical assistance to internal and external stakeholders.
The Daily Chronicle in Centralia reported in August, that the "…isolation and quarantine facility at Lakeview Inn in Centralia still has capacity and room to serve those in Washington state who don't fall under any city or county jurisdiction."
According to the outlet, the state previously admitted to not communicating with stakeholders of the last-minute move to the Lakeview Inn in Centralia and apologized to the local community and committed to finding options to help the city recover lost lodging taxes due to the department’s occupation of the inn.
Residents also had concerns about those using the facility spreading the virus locally. According to the Chronicle, "Two people have had to be transferred to a local hospital with worsening conditions."
Officials claimed the 40-bed Lakeview Inn was completely voluntary program that served travelers, shipping vessel crews, military personnel, as well as Department of Corrections work-release inmates and anyone else who contracts COVID-19 while traveling through or doing business in Washington state.
The Washington State Board of Health meeting to receiev the briefing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM on Wednesday, January 12. Residents who wish to voice concerns can register for the live webinar, or dial in using your phone for listen-only mode: Call in: +1 (253) 215-8782 (not toll-free) Webinar ID: 894 7406 4216 Passcode: 957396
Residents are invited to send their comments to the Board at email@example.com
Update: Following publication of this article, the Washington Board of Health issued a 'clarifying' statement reiterating what they had previously written to The Post Millennial in a Jan 5 email cited above and empahsized that "The Board will not take action on this agenda item at the meeting" with regard to including the COVID vaccine as a requirement for attending school.
The BOH also again claimed, as they had in the Jan 5 email, that updating rules and codes "...does not include changes to isolation and quarantine policies nor does it suggest law enforcement be used to enforce any vaccination requirements."
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