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In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Florida Keys residents David Sloan, second from right, and Heather May Potter, right, approach a life-size sculpture of Marilyn Monroe adorned with a protective mask Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Key West, Fla. "Forever Marilyn," inspired by a famous photograph of the actress in a white dress with a blowing skirt, was crafted by the late American sculptor J. Seward Johnson and stands outside the island's Tropic Cinema. Johnson, best known for his life-size cast bronzes placed in public settings, was a part-time Key West resident. The Florida Keys are temporarily closed to visitors because of COVID-19. People in the Keys and in many other parts of the world are being advised to wear masks in public to reduce potential virus transmission. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

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Florida pair arrested for breaking COVID-19 quarantine order

The man said he was walking his dog days after testing positive.

Jose Freire Interian was walking his dog near his Key West home when a neighbor began recording him on her cellphone. Hours later, police came knocking on his door with an arrest warrant and whisked Freire and his wife to the county jail.

The charge: violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.

As a national debate swirls over masks and self-quarantines, communities are grappling over how aggressively they should enforce myriad rules meant to control the spread of the novel strain of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 460,000 in Florida and killed nearly 6,600 of its residents.

“It’s a national debate up until the health department tells you to quarantine, and then there’s no more debate,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz said Thursday.

“If the law allows someone to be arrested for violating a quarantine order and they continue to thumb their nose at the law — yeah, they should be arrested,” Veliz said.

Intense debate over masks, business closures and social distancing have raged since the start of the outbreak. Arrests have been rare, but there have been occasional flare ups.

In May, a Kentucky woman infected with the virus was arrested while shopping for groceries. Authorities accused her of “wanton endangerment” and “criminal mischief.”

That same month, a coronavirus patient was chased down and arrested in Nashville after being placed under quarantine by public health officials.

In Hawaii last month, 21 travelers were arrested for breaking the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine. None tested positive for the coronavirus.

Veliz said the Florida couple was arrested Wednesday after police received a complaint and a video showing a possible violation of a quarantine order imposed by state public health officials against the couple.

The Keys, a chain of islands fanning westward from Florida’s southern tip, had been closed to tourists and other nonresidents for two months in the spring to keep the virus from spreading. It reopened to visitors in June.

In Florida, a national hot spot for the outbreak, public health officials have urged people to wear masks and keep their distance. But they also have the authority to order those who are infected to self-quarantine.

State officials said Freire Interian and his wife, Yohana Gonzalez, 26, learned they were infected with the virus on July 15, after being tested five days earlier.

They were advised to wear face masks at home, a three-bedroom house the couple shares with at least three other tenants. And they were required to self-isolate for at least 14 days.

But the Florida Department of Health determined them to “present an immediate danger of harm to others” when it was notified that the couple had gone to the grocery story on July 20 while possible still infected. A day later, the agency issued a mandatory quarantine order against the couple.

Police said they received video footage Wednesday showing a possible violation of that order and asked a judge to issue arrest warrants.

Freire Interian and Gonzalez, who were released Thursday after posting bail, expressed disbelief over the misdemeanor charges. They speculated that the arrests were the result of a soured relationship with another tenant.

“I didn’t do anything. I was just walking my dog,” said Freire Interian, 24, who said his pet needed to relieve herself. “It’s not as if I left the house to go shopping.”

While he was walking his dog, he said, he was being recorded by one of his neighbors.

Later in the afternoon, police arrived.

“They knocked on the door real loud. I opened the door. They told me ‘Come on,’ and I asked them, ‘Why?’ I was in shock,” Freire Interian said. “Why am I getting arrested for? It was unfair.”

Michael Morley, a law professor at Florida State University, said government officials may have compelling reasons to more aggressively enforce public health rules, including requiring people to wear masks in public places — as is required by some jurisdictions, including Key West.

“To the extent that there’s any debate, it’s not really a constitutional and statutory debate. It’s more of a policy debate whether the public health risk is sufficient to warrant” a crackdown on those violating public health laws, Morley said.

“Any general deterrence is always one goal of law enforcement,” he said, noting that the arrests could “encourage other people to comply with the law.”

The Key West couple is expected to face a judge on Aug. 10.

___

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Written By

Bobby Caina Calvan is The Associated Press reporter in Tallahassee.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. martin

    July 31, 2020 at 7:34 am

    and Chris Coumo was also on video being out and about when he claimed to be infected. But since he is the gov. of NY’s brother, and a talking headpiece on CNN, he gets a pass.

    As for the subject of this article; he was only outside walking his dog. He was not purposely out infecting others.
    What have we become? It is ok to riot and burn, but not ok to walk a dog?

    I would not give you 2 cents for our “public health” officials.

  2. Dan

    July 31, 2020 at 7:40 am

    Typical Tyrannical unelected Government Officials. To think they abuse their authority over a test that has proven 85% false reporting and up to 70% of False positives. It’s amazing that over 90% are negative, they can’t find a real test to validate the 10% and less than 1% of the population is effective. Just think if we did this for the Deadly Flu, which also will test positive and so will the common cold.

  3. Joe Fatala

    July 31, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Break the law, go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. This is not a game.

    • Sonja Fitch

      August 2, 2020 at 5:35 am

      Arrest every one of those trumper idiots standing on the corner of Atlantic Blvd and Third St! Fools yelling screaming and hugging and mugging! Sometimes I think what will it take for the goptrump cult to believe in the trumpvirus pandemic? Brainwashed and braindead. !

  4. Hester

    July 31, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Sure Joe, by your reasoning lets expose the cops who responded to this non-sense 911 call.

    Lets expose the jail personnel who have to watch these people.

    How many others have no been exposed for breaking “NO LAW”.

    This is nothing more then an “executive” order issued by a non-elected official.

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