Coronavirus Quarantines Prompt Warnings of Possible Civil Rights Violations
WASHINGTON – Federal and state officials are hurrying to figure out a long-term quarantine procedure for passengers arriving at U.S. airports who potentially carry the deadly coronavirus without violating their rights.
As the epidemic grows, they are considering quarantine within homes where the arriving passengers are staying. So far, military bases are the only place Americans under quarantine have been housed in the U.S.
“More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning on its website. “It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.”
The military’s role in containing the virus is drawing warnings from civil liberties groups.
“Public panic will predictably spark calls for tough, even draconian measures that treat the problem like a law enforcement or national security issue rather than a public health matter,” said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Recent history after a 2014 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and the 2009 swine flu that appeared to start in Mexico showed how political officials can overreact, Stanley said. In both cases, they considered travel bans.
“We at the ACLU have always acknowledged that civil liberties must sometimes give way when it comes to fighting a communicable disease, but only in ways that are scientifically justified,” he wrote in an editorial.
The ACLU and others are warning that treating sick people like enemies could make them go underground to avoid the authorities, thereby increasing the spread of disease.
Stanely appeared to take a swipe at the U.S. government when he wrote, “The evidence is clear that travel bans and quarantines are not the solution.”
Eleven airports nationwide are authorized to receive passengers who might carry the coronavirus, which has been traced to the Hubei province of China. They are being housed under quarantine at four U.S. military bases: Camp Ashland in Nebraska; Travis Air Force Base in California; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Officials who set quarantine rules face sensitive legal dilemmas that balance 4th Amendment privacy, 14th Amendment due process and Commerce Clause provisions of the Constitution. Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264) gives the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to prevent the spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries, such as through isolation and quarantine.
The rarely-invoked quarantines are carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Violating a quarantine order is punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Constitutional privacy rights require isolation or quarantine to be as unrestricted as possible without endangering other persons.
Typically, persons being watched for illness are conditionally released if they comply with medical monitoring and surveillance.
Arrangements for quarantine can be made by state and local officials under agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In one case, Loudoun County, Va., Health Department officials say they want to make the quarantined persons arriving at Dulles International Airport as comfortable as possible while they figure out a plan that could last for months.
Thirteen cases of coronavirus have been reported in the United States. In China, the number has climbed to nearly 45,000, killing 1,113 of them.
The World Health Organization is warning about a pandemic.
In The News
In The News
Hospitalizations in some regions of Florida are increasing at their fastest rate since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as... Read More
Hospitalizations in some regions of Florida are increasing at their fastest rate since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as it records more new cases than any other state. Florida recorded 73,199 cases over the course of last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control... Read More
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Fred Ware and his son were researching the history of the home he's owned in the... Read More
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Fred Ware and his son were researching the history of the home he's owned in the Hartford suburbs since 1950 when they discovered something far uglier than they expected. Tucked in a list of rules on the home's original deed from the... Read More
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As a member of the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Angus King has reason to worry... Read More
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As a member of the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Angus King has reason to worry about hackers. At a briefing by security staff this year, he said he got some advice on how to help keep his cellphone secure. Step One:... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's latest leap into the Senate's up-and-down efforts to clinch a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's latest leap into the Senate's up-and-down efforts to clinch a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal comes with even more at stake than his coveted plans for boosting road, rail and other public works projects. The outcome of the infrastructure bargaining,... Read More
WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden announced a new proposed rule Wednesday morning that’s intended to strengthen domestic supply chains and... Read More
WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden announced a new proposed rule Wednesday morning that’s intended to strengthen domestic supply chains and bolster the nation’s manufacturing sector by establishing a higher threshold for products to qualify as made in the United States. The announcement comes ahead of Biden’s... Read More
First-term Texas State Rep. Jake Ellzey defeated fellow Republican Susan Wright in a special runoff election in Texas’s 6th Congressional... Read More
First-term Texas State Rep. Jake Ellzey defeated fellow Republican Susan Wright in a special runoff election in Texas’s 6th Congressional District Tuesday night, dealing former President Donald Trump a defeat in terms of the enduring power of his endorsement. Ellzey received 53.3% of the vote to... Read More