THE GOVERNMENT'S AUTHORITY TO QUARANTINE
March 15, 2020
I'm a lawyer, not a doctor. Defer to the health experts for health information about the coronavirus. What I can give you is commentary about the legal issues. The term quarantine has been coming up a lot in coverage of the virus, often in the context of "self-quarantines."
The federal and state governments can impose quarantine orders. Connecticut, for instance, vests that authority in the Commissioner of Public Health. Violation of a quarantine or other DPH order is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and up to a year in jail. A person subject to such an order could demand a hearing in his or her local probate court to require DPH to prove its case. The probate court's decree can be appealed to the Superior Court. A self-quarantine is not a formal order but a request made in lieu of one.
Under the federal law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services can issue quarantine orders. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also has the authority to detain, examine and release people entering the United States or traveling among states whom it suspects may be carrying communicable diseases. The federal government derives this authority from the Commerce Claus.
If you have any health questions, please call your doctor or other suitable medical authority. If you have a legal question, call me.