A Washington state woman who has repeatedly refused a judge’s order to take tuberculosis medication remains at large weeks after a rarely used warrant was issued for her arrest, authorities said.
The woman, identified in court documents as VN, has a hearing scheduled for Friday in Pierce County, south of Seattle, but it is unclear if she will appear.
Sergeant Darren Moss, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, said VN was not in custody and had no further updates. Citing client confidentiality, his attorney declined to comment on whether he will attend the hearing.
A spokesman for the county public health department declined to comment and pointed to a previous statement saying the agency has the legal authority to compel people who pose a risk to public health to comply with court orders.
A judge signed the warrant for VN’s arrest in March after public health officials said they had asked the judge 16 times to order him to self-isolate or take medication for the illness, described in court documents as an active case of the disease.
Tuberculosis often damages the lungs and can be fatal. The disease is spread through the air when people cough or sneeze and can be cured with medication.
According to The News Tribune of Tacoma, legal petitions from the Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Public Health said VN had at one point started taking the drug but then stopped.
VN’s condition is unclear. A May 10 department petition said an agency official believes VN is still infected with the disease.
A court document filed last month showed that a deputy who had been watching the woman after the warrant was issued saw her board a bus to a casino. The deputy did not stop VN.
The surveillance was revealed in a statement filed in Pierce County Superior Court by Patricia Jackson, head of the county’s corrections office.
Jackson said the deputy had been tasked with monitoring VN to execute the order «safely.» He did not say why VN was not arrested or why he told the officer to stop watching VN.
Moss, of the sheriff’s department, declined to comment, saying his office «will not comment on how we conduct surveillance, when we conduct surveillance, or when we will attempt to arrest that person after they are in custody.»
In another May 10 court filing, a legal assistant for the Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Public Health said a person identifying themselves as VN’s son called the office and asked if his mother had missed a court hearing. .
He also asked for the next hearing date and his attorney’s information, according to the filing.
The public health department asked Judge Philip Sorenson in its May 10 petition to reauthorize VN’s involuntary detention, testing, and treatment.
There were nearly 100,000 cases of tuberculosis reported annually in the United States in the early 1950s. By 2021, that number had dropped to 7,882, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pierce County sees approximately 20 active cases of the disease annually, according to the local public health department.
VN’s hearing on Friday is scheduled for 11 a.m.