On Monday, the City of Laredo threatened residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 with criminal prosecution if they fail to quarantine or cooperate with the city’s contact tracing efforts.
City Manager Robert Eads stated that anyone who does not quarantine while testing positive for the virus could face up to 10 years in prison.
Eads claimed that participating in contact tracing is mandatory, even though the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) says that participation is not required.
The city said they will issue subpoenas if necessary to force coronavirus patients and other residents to cooperate with contact tracing personnel.
Contact tracing is the state’s attempt to slow the spread by following up with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, verifying that they are taking precautions, and gathering information about other individuals they may have come into contact with.
Eads also misstated the punishment for a third degree felony.
The Texas Health and Safety Code provides that anyone violating a lawful quarantine is guilty of a third degree felony, which carries a penalty of two to 10 years of imprisonment. Eads said the minimum penalty is five years in prison.
Laredo is notorious for its aggressive enforcement of coronavirus control measures.
In April, the city arrested two beauticians in a sting operation for violating the temporary prohibition on salons and barbershops.
The incident would be part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s basis for retroactively precluding imprisonment as a consequence of violating his coronavirus executive orders.
Laredo was also one of the first municipalities to mandate face coverings early in the pandemic, and even instated a curfew of 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM for residents performing activities deemed “non-essential” by authorities.
Laredo is the county seat of Webb County, where 781 residents have recovered from COVID-19, and 29 have died, per the county’s data.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.