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Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

Student convicted of violating quarantine released from custody in Cayman Islands, future at Mercer unclear

The Mercer University student convicted of violating local COVID-19 quarantine laws in the Cayman Islands was released from custody Friday, but her status as a Mercer student is not yet publicly known.

Skylar Mack, a sophomore on the pre-med track, traveled to the Cayman Islands over winter break to visit her boyfriend. She was required to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving on Nov. 27, as all visitors to the Cayman Islands are required to do.

Two days after arrival, Mack broke quarantine in order to watch her boyfriend compete in a jet ski competition, according to the Cayman Island Grand Court and multiple media reports.

“The anger — the disappointment — it’s all justified,” Mack told ABC’s Good Morning America in a story that aired Tuesday. “I made this mistake. And it sucks, but you did that yourself.”

Mercer’s Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications Larry Brumley said the university did not have a statement Tuesday on Mack’s future at Mercer.

“We have no comment at this time on Skylar Mack’s current status,” Brumley said.

Mack’s conviction garnered international attention after she was sentenced to four months in prison for violating her required 14-day quarantine period. She was fitted with a tracking device upon arrival to the Cayman Islands and requested that it be loosened by officials. She proceeded to remove the device the following day to attend the jet ski competition, according to the court.

“This was as flagrant a breach as could be imagined; it was borne of selfishness and arrogance,” Judge Roger Chapple said, as reported by the local Cayman Compass newspaper. “This was entirely deliberate and planned, as evidenced by her desire to switch her wristband the day before to a looser one that she was then able to remove.”

Mack had tested negative for COVID-19 upon arriving in the Cayman Islands but was still required to quarantine for two weeks under the country’s COVID-19 prevention policies.

Mack was originally fined $2,600 and required to do 40 hours of community service, according to NBC News, but prosecutors filed an appeal, believing the original decision to be too lenient.

The court agreed and sentenced Mack to four months in prison. After that, Mack’s sentence was then reduced to two months.

In total, Mack served a total of 32 days in prison. For people sentenced to under a year in prison, a law in the Cayman Islands allows people with those short sentences to serve only 60% of their sentence if they agree to adhere to certain guidelines after their release, Mack’s lawyer Jonathan Hughes told NBC last month.

The Cayman Islands, with a population of around 65,000, has only had 381 COVID-19 cases and two COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking of coronavirus cases internationally.

Only 0.05% of the island’s population has tested positive for COVID-19, in comparison to roughly 7% of the U.S.’s population. The Cayman Islands’ government told People Magazine that enforcing “stringent isolation and social distancing policies” is part of how the island is working to keep their levels that low.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020, the Cayman Islands Government has prioritized the safety of its residents and their protection from the global COVID-19 pandemic,” the government wrote in a statement. “To accomplish this goal the Government employed stringent isolation and social distancing policies.”

In the middle of all of the controversy, Mack’s family sought help from the State Department and the Trump administration, arguing that Mack was unfairly used to make an example.

“We’re not asking for her to get an exception,” Jeanne Mack, her grandmother, told People Magazine.  “We’re asking for her not to be the exception.”

In her Good Morning America interview, Mack was asked if she understood why the Cayman Islands’ government might have wanted to make an example of her due to her actions. She said that she “fully” did.

Mack acknowledged that she made a “conscious decision” to break her quarantine and could not justify what she did. But Mack said she learned from her actions.

“It was a selfish decision. There is no reason that I can give you to grant me a second chance,” Mack said. “I don’t expect people to forgive me, but I ask for people to at least let me show them that I did learn from it.”

Mack's boyfriend, 24-year-old Vanjae Ramgeet, was convicted of helping Mack break quarantine, and he was also stripped of his victory at the competition. Additionally, Mack’s attorney Hughes told People Magazine that Mack’s father — a professional jet skier as well — has lost sponsorships because of the attention to Mack’s case.

Mack is originally from Logansville, Georgia, which is about 30 miles from Atlanta and around 80 miles from Macon.


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