The hard way —
After 23 days in jail, she agreed to take her meds and must open her door to officials.
A woman in Tacoma, Washington, with an infamous case of tuberculosis is now out of jail—with strings attached.
Law enforcement agents took the woman—identified only as “V.N.” in court documents—into custody on June 1. At that point, V.N. had spent a year and half ignoring monthly court orders to have her tuberculosis case treated and/or isolate at home to keep from spreading her infection to others in the community. She also spent about three months on the lam, actively evading law enforcement as they tried to execute a March 2, 2023, civil arrest warrant. During that time, she was seen taking a city bus to a local casino and seemingly hid from law enforcement after that.
She was eventually apprehended at her home without incident on June 1, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Darren Moss told Ars at the time. Deputies booked her into a negative pressure room in the Pierce County Jail, where she would get her court-ordered tuberculosis treatment without risk to others in the facility.
Last Friday, after 23 days behind bars, the judge in her case—Pierce County Superior Court Judge Philip Sorensen—ordered her release, with conditions.
According to the order, V.N. has (finally) made an agreement to treat her tuberculosis case and will do so at home, in isolation, under electronic monitoring. The order lasts for up to 45 days but also says that she can only leave isolation after she tests negative on three consecutive sputum tests.
Until then, she’s required to take her medicine as directed by the health department and must open her door to health department workers, who will come to her house to watch her take her antibiotics and test her. She’s also required to open the door to law enforcement and any officials checking on her electronic monitoring. V.N. can only leave her home to go to the doctor, in which case the health department will arrange her transportation.
If she fails to comply with any of this, Sorensen’s order notes that she will again be found in contempt, and he will issue a new civil arrest warrant. If all goes well, the next step will be a Zoom court hearing on July 14.
Tuberculosis treatments can be lengthy, with antibiotic courses ranging from four months to up to 20 months for drug-resistant infections. The potentially life-threatening infection is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which often infects the lungs and can spread through the air at close range. The infection killed 1.6 million people in 2021 and is one of the top infectious disease killers in the world.
In a blog post, Nigel Turner, division director of Communicable Disease Control for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said that the department will “continue to work with her to provide testing and treatment to help cure her tuberculosis.”