Was an elderly woman in Washington state "kidnapped" for refusing to take a COVID-19 test? No, that's not true: The woman was placed in quarantine while she received medical treatment, according to a statement from the Clark County Sheriff's Office. She reportedly told a deputy that she wanted to stay in the hospital. The woman later requested to leave and was released less than an hour later, the statement said.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published on February 1, 2021. The post, titled "Kidnapped for not taking a C-ovid test!", included video of protesters outside of the Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington. A voice in the video said:
In Vancouver, Washington, an elderly woman was held hostage by a hospital for refusing to take a coronavirus test. When her family showed up to get her released, they were attacked by the police.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Feb 4 16:11:50 2021 UTC)
The post does not tell the whole story. The sheriff's office and the hospital help fill some of the gaps.
According to the sheriff's office statement, a 911 caller requested the presence of a deputy at the hospital on the afternoon of January 29, 2021. The statement read:
The caller reported that her mother, who had been admitted the prior day for medical reasons, was now being held against her will at the hospital. The caller stated that she had a medical Power of Attorney over her mother and was not being allowed in to see her.
The patient had refused to submit to a COVID test upon admittance to the hospital and had been placed in 24-hour quarantine for protection while receiving medical treatment. According to hospital personnel, the daughter had refused to wear a mask upon entering the hospital and was refused access to see her mother, who was in quarantine.
Upon arrival, the deputy assigned to the call spoke with the patient, who he determined via some basic questions was able to make her own decisions. She stated to the deputy that she wished to remain in the hospital in order to receive treatment.
At the same time, protesters gathered at the entrance of the hospital's emergency department, demanding the woman be released. The video post appears to pick up from there, showing protesters and deputies facing off at the doors. A deputy is seen shoving a woman back. A man who tried to force the doors open was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, according to the sheriff's office, which noted that several protesters had gas masks and firearms. There were no arrests. The statement read:
The main focus of the presence of law enforcement was to prevent an onrush of persons entering the hospital and to ensure the safety of the patients and staff at the hospital.
Later that evening, a sergeant told dispatch that the patient had requested to leave. Less than an hour later, she was released from the hospital, according to the sheriff's office.
Kidnapping has a specific meaning in Washington state law:
A person is guilty of kidnapping in the first degree if he or she intentionally abducts another person with intent:(a) To hold him or her for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage; or(b) To facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter; or(c) To inflict bodily injury on him or her; or(d) To inflict extreme mental distress on him, her, or a third person; or(e) To interfere with the performance of any governmental function.
Lead Stories reached out, via phone, to the woman's daughter to ask about what happened. She said she was in the middle of taking care of her mother, who had a doctor's appointment, and not in a position to talk. She said she would get back to us as soon as she could. We will update this story when she does.
We also reached out to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. It responded with a statement that did not directly reference the woman's case, but discussed patient safety protocols. It stressed that it would never hold a patient against his or her will. The statement read:
To protect patients and staff from exposure to COVID-19 and help prevent the spread of the disease, we ask all patients to take a COVID-19 test upon admittance to any Legacy Health hospital, regardless of the medical issue for which they are seeking care. If a patient refuses to take a COVID-19 test, we honor that decision. However, we must treat those individuals as if they have the infection and use quarantine protocols during their hospital stay.
If a patient would prefer not to adhere to these protocols, they can leave. Any patient who is determined to be competent can leave the hospital at any time if they chose to do so. If leaving conflicts with medical advice, individuals are required to sign paperwork indicating they are leaving 'against medical advice' before they leave. Hospitals do not hold people against their will.
The video post shows the moment the elderly woman, bundled under blankets, is released and brought outside in a wheelchair. The crowd cheers and claps, while a voice can be heard saying in an apparent reference to the deputies on scene: "They're all a bunch of traitors, you guys. They'll all a bunch of traitors."
Longer versions of the video were posted on the YouTube channel of Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016. It was unclear whether he attended the Washington protest.