This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Tuesday (April 7). This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.
About three weeks ago — which feels more like months in coronavirus time — Rob Gatter and his St. Louis University School of Law colleague Ana Santos Rutschman drew attention in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to what they consider to be Missouri’s problematic use of “informal quarantine.”
Officials’ decision in early March to simply ask, rather than formally order, a suburban St. Louis family to self-quarantine while awaiting COVID-19 test results seems to have backfired. The family’s attorney has said they weren’t told to stay home until after their trips outside the home made headlines.
Gatter is quick to acknowledge that in many cases people do and are abiding by informal quarantine measures, and he notes that the success of public health actions requires a great deal of public cooperation.
But “the current practice of oral requests to self-quarantine accompanied by an oral threat of a formal order is dangerous for several reasons,” he and Santos Rutschman write. They believe that includes the potential for miscommunication, mistakes and mistrust. Court orders, they say, increase transparency and forces health officials to do their homework.