Statement on misinformation circulating about quarantine orders and facilities in Washington state

Statement from John Wiesman, Secretary of Health and Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer

The Department of Health is aware of rumors and misinformation circulating about quarantine orders and specialized quarantine facilities.

Public health officials regularly ask people who are sick with an infectious disease or may have been exposed to an infectious disease to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. This strategy has been used for decades to combat the spread of tuberculosis, measles, Ebola and SARS. Our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and with other infectious diseases shows the vast majority of people we ask are willing to follow recommendations and isolate or quarantine themselves. Isolation and quarantine at home continues to be the best option and our recommendation for those who can do so safely. However, all of these actions are voluntary and confidential, despite the misinformation being spread by some.

We hope people will continue to protect their families and communities by following public health recommendations. We are striving to:

  • provide timely and accurate information
  • ensure access to services for those who need them to make staying at home possible
  • provide a safe space for anyone who needs one

The authority to involuntary isolate or quarantine an individual rests with local health officers. Each local health jurisdiction in Washington has plans and processes in place should involuntary isolation or quarantine be needed. This authority is rarely used as a last resort when someone is intentionally putting others at risk. We believe any facilities included in local health plans are most likely to be used by people who are willing to voluntarily isolate or quarantine but don’t have a safe place available to do so. Again, nearly everyone sick with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19 is willing to follow public health recommendations voluntarily. We greatly appreciate the willingness of people in Washington to protect others in their community.