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VERIFY: Yes, violating bans on gatherings and quarantine orders could mean fines, imprisonment

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 3/26/2020 Eliana Block
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Are rules about public gatherings enforceable? Can you be cited or arrested?

If someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 and doesn’t properly quarantine, can they be punished by federal or state law?


Yes, local bans and quarantine orders can be enforced.



Business in the DMV is at a standstill as local leaders temporarily banned non-essential establishments and group gatherings.

The CDC says anyone who tests positive should isolate at home and separate themselves from others in the house. 

A viewer emailed the Verify team asking whether these rules are really enforceable. 

"Can one actually be cited or arrested for hosting a gathering of more than 10 people in their home or not properly self quarantining if diagnosed with COVID-19?" the viewer wrote.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have special powers to issue and enforce executive orders.

Our Verify researchers poured over the executive orders. 

In D.C., violators could face a $1,000 fine. In Virginia, it's up to $2,500 and/or 12 months in jail. In Maryland, violators could face up to $5,000 in fines and/or 12 months jail time.  

What if you test positive and don’t properly quarantine?

Both states and the CDC can issue orders telling COVID-19 patients to stay put.

"Any order of quarantine, or isolation shall be enforced by law-enforcement agencies," Virginia Code spells out. It allows police to "detain or arrest any person or persons identified as in violation" of isolation or quarantine.

Under Maryland law, those who break a state-mandated isolation or quarantine could face up to 12 months in prison, a fine of $3,000, or both. In the District, someone who leaves isolation against a Mayor's order faces up to 90 days imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both.

The CDC says federal quarantines are rarely used, but if you break that order, you can face fines, imprisonment, or both.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Coast Guard officers are both authorized to enforce it.

So we can VERIFY, these bans and quarantine orders can be enforced.

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