A Wisconsin teen who traveled to Florida for spring break was threatened with arrest for starting a “panic” when she posted on social media about having the coronavirus, a lawsuit alleges.
The legal battle for Amyiah Cohoon, 16, began when she posted a selfie in an oxygen mask while in the hospital for what doctors told her was likely COVID-19.
“I am still on breathing treatment but have beaten the coronavirus. Stay home and be safe,” she captioned the March 26 Instagram post.
The next day, Cameron Klump, a patrol sergeant with the sheriff’s office, visited Cohoon’s home and told her father that he had direct orders from Sheriff Joseph Konrath to demand that she delete the post or he would “start taking people to jail” for disorderly conduct.
“Sheriff Konrath advised me he wished for me to respond to the residence and have the post removed from her social media,” Klump wrote in his incident report, according to the lawsuit.
Samuel Hall, attorney for Konrath and the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department, told Fox News that his office acted “in good faith.”
“[Her messages] caused distress and panic within the school system and law enforcement acted at the request of school health officials in a good faith effort to avoid unfounded panic,” Hall said.
Sheriff Joseph KonrathMarquette County Sheriff’s Office
The sophomore became ill after she traveled to Disney World and Universal Studios with her Westfield Area High School band class on March 7, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
The teen came down with a fever and dry cough five days after returning home on March 15, the lawsuit says. Her mother, Angela Cohoon, took her to the emergency room at Divine Savior Hospital on March 22, when she started having difficulty breathing.
Doctors who evaluated Cohoon said her symptoms were typical of COVID-19, but said she didn’t fit the criteria for one of the scarce tests, the lawsuit says. She was sent home with an inhaler and doctors told her and her parents to self-quarantine.
But the teen’s condition worsened and she was taken by ambulance March 25 to UW Children’s Hospital in Madison where she was tested for the coronavirus, according to the lawsuit.
The test came back negative, but doctors said she still likely had COVID-19 and had missed the window for testing positive, the lawsuit claims.
Cohoon was sent home from the hospital on March 26 and later posted the offending oxygen mask selfie.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Cohoon and her parents, Richard and Angela, seeks nominal damages and a declaration that the social media posts were protected free speech.
“The First Amendment’s protection of speech, especially online speech, is as vital as ever during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. … This case is about preserving the right to share our experiences with each other during this difficult time,” the lawsuit reads.