Both Obama and Bush Signed Executive Orders to Approve Quarantines for Infectious Disease
Barack Obama defended his no quarantine policy for Ebola workers returning to America from West Africa.
But both Barack Obama and George W. Bush signed executive orders to give federal officials the ability to force quarantines.
Currently, the federal government can quarantine people arriving from outside the U.S. or between states, while states have the capacity to isolate individuals within state boundaries. (If a person gets off a plane from a foreign country such as Liberia, then he or she is traveling within the state.)
Under the law, federal and state authorities also must have good reason to believe that a person is suspected of possibly contracting a communicable disease, noted Gottlieb, who analyzes policy, regulation, and public health as a Forbes contributor.
The United States cannot quarantine an entire city, such as Dallas or New York, which have both had recent cases of exposure to Ebola. But it can isolate a planeload of passengers if evidence shows that an airborne pathogen like SARS or MERS was released during the flight. (Ebola is not yet an airborne disease.)
During the Bush administration, to prevent a public health emergency such as a bioterrorist act, rules were put in place to authorize forced quarantines. But the controls appeared too stringent to civil libertarians, and the current administration abandoned them.
“Instead of tightening some of the parameters around how quarantine would be used through a revised regulation, the Obama administration abruptly pulled the rule, and replaced it with nothing,” wrote Gottlieb.
President Barack Obama signed a series of executive orders to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clear quarantine authority over the then-emerging respiratory pathogens of SARS and MERS, but the doctor says that overall, the regulations are outdated.