Questions on who has the power to end mandatory quarantine need answers, amidst news that Trump plans to end social distancing orders. Trump’s main goal is to encourage people to return to regular work.
Mandates for Quarantine or Isolation on a Federal Level
Actually, since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has the power to mandate a federal order to implement measures that will protect the health and safety of the American public, the authorization to end social distancing measures must also come from the agency.
The moment the U.S. CDC finds scientific evidence that a suspected disease will likely spread and threaten the entire nation, the agency is vested with the power to mandate isolation or quarantine orders on a federal level. CDC’s legal authority includes determining the duration by which quarantine orders will take effect.
As part of the federal government’s actions to battle the disease, the Executive branch of the government will in turn order other government units or agencies to help CDC carry out quarantine orders aimed at preventing the spread of a highly communicable disease.
Government officials in all ports of entry and borders to U.S. territories will likewise implement isolation and quarantine procedures to prevent continuing spread throughout the country.
The CDC is also authorized to take other measures deemed necessary to avoid transmissions of the infectious disease, particularly to the vulnerable members of communities. In fact if social distancing measures will not be enough to attain CDC’s goal of stemming the spread of the contagion, the agency has the power to invoke massive quarantine or isolation by ordering people to shelter-in-place. Such an order will be implemented with the assistance of federal law enforcement authorities.
Most important of all, the CDC will assist state and local governments in carrying out actions to prevent the transmission of the disease in their respective communities.
Public Health Authorities Have the Power to Order Quarantine or Isolation at State and Local Levels
Public health officials of local and/or state governments have the power to mandate orders that restrict the movement of people. Shelter-in-place orders will serve as community quarantine procedures to prevent well individuals from being exposed to individuals who may have unknowingly contracted the disease, especially if the infected persons still do not exhibit the symptoms.
That being the case, public health officials have the authority to suspend crowd gatherings. Local and state governments on the other hand can compel non-essential business establishments to close, in order to eliminate opportunities for person-to-person transmissions.
State laws on how quarantine and isolation actions should be carried out or implemented, may differ between territorial jurisdictions. In the event that there is conflict between state or local mandates and federal order, the latter will prevail.