Can the U.S. Legally Order a Mass Quarantine of its Citizens?

Published by Matt Fishman on

The Federal Government has the authority to quarantine its citizens in accordance with Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and Section 70 of U.S. Code Title 42.

Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act

Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act states the federal government “is authorized to make and enforce such regulations as in his judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”

This section further stipulates that under Executive orders of the President, “the apprehension, detention, or conditional release of individuals… for the purpose of preventing the introduction, transmission, or spread of such communicable diseases” is authorized.

However, “regulations prescribed under this section,… shall be applicable only to individuals coming into a State or possession from a foreign country or a possession.”

Section 70.6 of Title 42 of the U.S Federal Code of Regulations

Under section 70.6 of U.S. Code Title 42, the federal government may quarantine “any individual for the purpose of preventing the introduction, transmission, and spread of quarantinable communicable diseases, as specified by Executive Order” if the individual is categorized by one of the following:

  1. “The individual is reasonably believed to be infected with a quarantinable communicable disease in a qualifying stage and is moving or about to move from a State into another State”.
  2. “The individual is reasonably believed to be infected with a quarantinable communicable disease in a qualifying stage and constitutes a probable source of infection to other individuals who may be moving from a State into another State.”

Notably, this section requires the federal government “will arrange for adequate food and water, appropriate accommodation, appropriate medical treatment, and means of necessary communication for individuals who are apprehended or held in quarantine or isolation under this part.”

Criminal Penalty for Violation of Quarantine

Under section 70.18 of U.S. Code Title 42, “[p]ersons in violation of this part are subject to a fine of no more than $100,000… or one year in jail”.