Health ministry responds to ‘intimidation’ charge, says lawmaker has taken information out of context
Already under fire for his school warrant mask, the Wolf administration is now accused of “bullyingStudents with a letter describing the consequences of failing to comply with a COVID-related quarantine.
The health department says the document was taken out of context for the purposes of “political gain”.
Senator Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, contacted Acting Secretary of State for Health Alison Beam and Secretary of Education Noe Ortega contacted parents “alarmed” over a 2-page letter sent to some close contacts of people on Wednesday. tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Martin’s office provided copies of the document to Capital-Star. It is signed by Beam and notifies the recipient of their potential exposure, instructs them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, if possible, and describes possible symptoms.
If close contact does not comply, the letter states: “The health secretary may request a court to confine you to an appropriate location chosen by the department to ensure that you are not able to infect. the public and to make sure you are receiving appropriate care.
“You will stay there until the department determines that it can release you from quarantine,” he adds.
The document also says close contact could end the quarantine after 10 days if he shows no symptoms after a week with a negative antigen test. He also tells individuals to maintain social distancing and watch for symptoms throughout the two week period.
“The department cares about your health and well-being, your family and the general public,” the letter concludes, offering a contact number for further assistance.
Martin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, has been a vocal critic of the Wolf administration’s COVID-19 response. In his letter, he said the state’s health department “had hit a new low” and “those involved should be held accountable.”
“Intimidating children by telling them that the justice system and law enforcement can remove them from their homes and place them in another place for them to be taken care of by the government is extremely inappropriate,” Martin wrote. . “These intimidating letters are another example of the Wolf administration’s improper response to COVID-19.”
Barry Ciccocioppo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the agency did not routinely send the letter.
“The letter in question has been in use since the start of the pandemic – nearly 20 months – and is sent to close contacts – or to their relative [or] guardian with quarantine instructions only in situations where the individual is uncooperative and refuses to self-quarantine, ”he told Capital-Star, adding that layered mitigation measures mean that most students can continue to learn in class.
More than 41,000 students have tested positive for the coronavirus since August 16, according to state data. In August – after some schools reopened for in-person instruction – Beam adopted a statewide universal mask mandate for kindergarten to grade 12 schools and daycares due to the increasing number of cases.
Republicans, who hold the majority in the Legislative Assembly, critical the warrant and tried to find ways around it. They too recommended for a constitutional amendment that reduced Gov. Tom Wolf – and future governors – from emergency response powers. GOP lawmakers have also proposed similar changes to the health secretary position.
“We need Republicans to stop spending their time undermining public health and spreading fear, and instead encourage people to get vaccinated,” Ciccocioppo said.