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No fines have been issued for quarantine violators in RI

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than a month after Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a stern warning that quarantine violators would face penalties in Rhode Island, state officials say no such fines have been issued.

Raimondo on April 9 announced the state would start enforcing quarantines, which are required for people who traveled to Rhode Island from another state or country, or for people who the R.I. Department of Health learned were exposed to COVID-19 through contact tracing.

“We don’t want to punish anyone, we don’t want to levy a fine on anyone,” Raimondo said at the time. “But if you are found to be deliberately, knowingly, purposely, repeatedly violating your quarantine and isolation, well then you will be punished.”

The next day, the R.I. Department of Health issued emergency regulations for the enforcement, which included fines starting at $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third, with fines being levied for each day the person goes out when they were ordered to quarantine. The penalties also apply to someone ordered to self-isolate because they tested positive for the virus.

Six weeks later, Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken confirmed no fines have been issued under the regulations.

“We have not,” Wendelken said in an email when asked if the state had levied any fines.

He added that the Department of Health has received a “small number” of reports of quarantine violators, and contacted the people to educate them on the rules.

“It is usually just that people don’t understand the quarantine requirements,” Wendelken said.

The emergency rule allowing for the enforcement of quarantines expires Aug. 8, though it’s unclear what level of enforcement will take place moving forward.

Raimondo removed the R.I. National Guard from the southern border and T.F. Green Airport last week, meaning the state is no longer collecting names and contact info from people traveling into Rhode Island. (The governor also said she plans to loosen travel restrictions soon, but currently the quarantine order is still in place.)

On the other hand, contact tracing is expected to get even more aggressive with a new app unveiled this week that allows users to track their locations and share them with the Health Department if they test positive for COVID-19. Rhode Islanders are also asked to write down all the names of the people they come into contact with, so those people can quarantine and monitor for symptoms if exposed.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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