The lawsuit suggests the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department was afraid the posts might’ve sparked a community panic.
A Wisconsin teenager has filed a lawsuit against the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department.
According to The Associated Press, the 16-year plaintiff—Amyiah Cohoon—visited Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World over spring break. She took her trip near the beginning of March, several weeks before the U.S. saw a drastic uptick in novel coronavirus cases.
Some time after returning to her home in Oxford, Wisconsin, Cohoon developed an illness with severe respiratory symptoms akin to COVID-19. She posted about her experience on social media, speculating that she might have contracted the disease.
“I am finally home after being hospitalized for a day and a half,” Cohoon wrote in an Instagram post dated March 26. “I am still on breathing treatment but have beaten the coronavirus. Stay home and be safe.”
Cohoon claims that, shortly after the post went up, Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath dispatched a sergeant to her family home. Now she’s suing the department, claiming deputies threatened with arrest if she didn’t take down her Instagram posts.
Her lawsuit, broadly, accuses the department of violating her First Amendment rights.
Cohoon, notes Fox News, tested negative for novel coronavirus at the end of March. But an attorney for the teen said doctors had told Cohoon’s family that the girl had likely had coronavirus—she simply waited too long to get tested.
And the lawsuit’s description of Cohoon’s illness does seem consistent with what we’ve so far learned about coronavirus and its progression.
Cohoon, says the lawsuit, returned home from Florida on March 15... About one week later, she began feeling ill and had difficulty breathing. Her symptoms also included a fever and dry cough, both of which are associated with COVID-19.
As Cohoon’s condition continued to deteriorate, her mother took her to a local emergency room.
“The doctors there evaluated Amyiah and concluded that her symptoms matched those of COVID-19, but they could not test her due to the criteria at the time,” the lawsuit states. “They sent Amyiah home with an inhaler and instructions to strictly self-quarantine and to return if her condition deteriorated.”
The lawsuit notes that, after receiving a tentative diagnosis of coronavirus, Cohoon’s mother informed school district officials, including the teen’s band teacher—other students had been on the same spring break trip, and Cohoon’s family wanted to extend ample warning.
However, school officials neglected to promptly inform other parents about the younger Cohoon’s condition.
Cohoon’s complaint suggests that the sheriff’s department may have threatened the teen to prevent a community panic. The sergeant who visited her home allegedly said that his superior, Sheriff Konrath, “wanted the post removed because there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county at that time.”
Cohoon said she deleted the post out of fear she might be taken to jail if she didn’t comply.
The sheriff’s department told The Associated Press that it never threatened Cohoon with arrest and will vigorously defend itself.