NY county threatens to forcibly quarantine those who might have come into contact with COVID-19

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A New York county is threatening to involuntarily quarantine residents who either may have come into contact with a person with COVID-19 or arrived in one of the states of concern listed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The warning came as part of a longer letter obtained by Fox News and confirmed Wednesday by the Chemung County Health Department.

“Failure to comply with this request may result in the issuance of a Public Health Director Order pursuant to Public Health Law § 2100, or a Court Order of commitment pursuant to Public Health Law § 2120 for your involuntary commitment enforced by CHEMUNG COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT and/or law enforcement officials,” the letter reads, referring to the counties’ quarantine laws.

It adds that breaching a court order “may be considered contempt of Court and may result in criminal prosecution.” A resident told Fox News they received an email with this warning on Jan. 15.

The copy reviewed by Fox News shows Public Health Director Peter Buzzetti III requesting a quarantine, noting that the county was informed that that the recipient may have “recently arrived from a state designated pursuant to New York State Executive Order 205 OR may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.”

The letter further requests the recipient notify the health department if they develop “any symptoms including fever, sore throat and/or shortness of breath.”

Buzzetti told Fox News that the letter was developed by his office and sent by New York state contact tracers. “Under public health law the public health director has statutory authority to require and enforce isolation and quarantine,” Buzzetti said.

He added that “[t]his has been the case for decades.” “If an individual will not isolate or quarantine voluntarily the statute allows the public health director to have them confined in other manners,” he said.

“This is the worst case scenario and we try a number of methods to prevent this from happening.”

The letter came amid broader concerns about the way state and local governments — particularly those in New York — attempted to restrict religious and other activity during the pandemic.

Keisha Russell, Counsel at First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm, told Fox News: “When state and local government officials believe they have the power to ignore the First Amendment and shut down churches, it should surprise no one when they use a crisis to eviscerate the rest of our Constitutional rights.” 

“This is exactly why we fought government orders from coast to coast that targeted religious worship, and why the Supreme Court of the United States agreed that government authority has limits even during a pandemic.  Government officials in New York are simply out of control.”

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