Home / AMERICAN NEWS / Why Is The Government Allowed To Quarantine People? – ‘The Why’

Why Is The Government Allowed To Quarantine People? – ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why.  “Why is the government allowed to quarantine people?” you ask? Good question . . . timely too. (It sure beats answering the question: “Why don’t they have a brown-stained pink ribbon for rectal cancer?”)


Quaratine/Image: Seton

“Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of persons; it is a ‘state of enforced isolation’. This is often used in connection to disease and illness, such as those who may possibly have been exposed to a communicable disease.”–Wikipedia

As you may already know (unless you’ve already duct-taped your windows, donned your 99Cent Only Store surgical mask and quarantined yourself away from the rest of the world), officials in Texas recently put several folks under quarantine following their contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan.

Why Is The Government Allowed To Quarantine People? Where do they get the power– (as Time put it)—“to restrict the liberty of citizens by quarantining them”?


Why is the government allowed to quarantine people?/Image: AFP/GettyImages

It’s actually in the Constitution. Seriously, as far as the feds go anyway just look up the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Read section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264), the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is given the authority to take various “measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases” into the US and between states as well, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which is authorized to carry out these actions.

Additionally, individual states are also allowed to quarantine folks under what is called “police power functions” which gives the states the authority to safeguard the safety and health of those “within their borders.” (In fact, Duncan’s family members fall under that authorization.) According to the CDC and Time, the last time quarantine was set into effect “on a large scale was during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic in 1918-1919.” (Guess we’re not doing too badly then, huh?)

Why is the government allowed to quarantine people? Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

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About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.