Quarantine and Isolation during a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.
In the event of a viral outbreak in the U.S., such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be appropriate for the state government to use quarantine or isolation to control the epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state governments, not the federal government, hold the majority of authority to isolate or quarantine individuals under certain conditions (Tushnet, 2018). The distinction between isolation and quarantine is significant. According to the CDC, isolation separates persons known to be ill from those who are healthy. To determine if they get sick, quarantine isolates and restricts the mobility of healthy individuals exposed to a contagious disease but not yet unwell.
Restrictions on certain rights are justifiable when they have a legal basis, are strictly necessary, and are based on scientific evidence. Also, when they are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in the application, they are of limited duration, are respectful of human dignity, are subject to review, and are proportional to the objective (Tushnet, 2018). The scale and severity of the COVID-19 epidemic rise to the level of a public health danger that could warrant restrictions on certain rights, such as those resulting from the imposition of quarantine or isolation that restricts the right to freedom of movement.
The federal, state, and municipal governments have the right to quarantine or segregate persons to control an outbreak. Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority to implement measures to prevent the introduction of infectious diseases from foreign countries and between states (Tushnet, 2018). In these cases, the CDC acts on behalf of the Secretary.
Tushnet, M. (2018). The constitutional politics of emergency powers: Some conceptual issues. Emergencies and the Limits of Legality, 145-155. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511552021.007
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In the event of a viral outbreak in a U.S. state, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think it would be appropriate for the state government to use quarantine or isolation to control the outbreak?
Under what conditions would it be appropriate? Explain your rationale.
In general, discuss whether you think federal, state, and local governments have the authority to quarantine or isolate citizens to control an outbreak.
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