The first coronavirus patient in New Hampshire — an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center — defied instruction from public health officials to stay away from other people.

In a statement, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said the patient, “despite having been directed to self-isolate, attended an invitation-only private event on Friday, Feb. 28.”

That action prompted the state to issue “an official order of isolation to the first patient.”

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Most states have such rules. And breaking these rules may be punishable, depending on each state’s legal guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that states have “police power functions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons within their borders.”

That includes the enforcement of laws to enforce isolation (when a person is sick) or quarantine (when a person is not sick, but has been exposed to a pathogen).

The CDC says that most states regard breaking a quarantine order as a criminal misdemeanor.

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New Hampshire reported Tuesday that a second person, a close contact of that first patient, has also tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s unclear, however, whether that second patient, an adult male, attended the Feb. 28 event, or was exposed as a result of the first individual breaking isolation.

Health officials in New Hampshire are now reaching out to anyone who attended the gathering, asking them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The first New Hampshire patient is an employee at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The facility is unaware that any patients were exposed to the individual.

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