Assessing the Sources of and Limits on Government Authority to Impose Quarantines
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
CRS report looks at state and federal ‘quarantine and isolation authority’
A 2014 Congressional Research Service report reviewed the legal powers federal and state officials could deploy to quarantine people exposed to “infectious biological agents.”
The big picture:
The public health authority of the states derives from the police powers granted by their constitutions and reserved to them by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The authority of the federal government to prescribe quarantine and other health measures is based on the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress exclusive authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. Thus, state and local governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions, and the federal government has authority to quarantine and impose other health measures to prevent the spread of diseases from foreign countries and between states. In addition, the federal government may assist state efforts to prevent the spread of communicable diseases if requested by a state or if state efforts are inadequate to halt the spread of disease.
The report looks at legal challenges to federal and state action, in addition to a look at state-level laws on quarantines. Turns out many of them are “between 40 and 100 years old.”
Which is a happy thought.
The entire, 11-page report is worth reading – and the footnotes are a great source of additional material.
Image Credit: By Jamelle Bouie [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons