There are not too many of us that are left that do not live in a state where someone has either come up positive for the coronavirus or that have had a scare of some kind.
Being the type of person that always likes to prepare for the worst-case scenario, it seems that we are indeed there people. My wife and I went to a store the other day and there were no paper products of any kind. Hell, they even took the “Happy Birthday” napkins.
It’s all strange because the last month when we did a big shopping trip, we went and bought three times what we normally need on most cleaning products and hygiene essentials. The wife had one of those feelings, and those feelings were right. It’s a strange feeling going into grocery stores for several decades as I have and just now being in one where I didn’t see any bleach.
Let’s face it, we all stand a reasonable possibility that we will end up quarantined at some point, or a self-quarantine. Hell, look at the events that they are canceling or talking about canceling. At some point, they may say that you are quarantined. Some people think that this is akin to being in jail.
That being said, you need to know exactly what your rights are.
The federal government’s power to quarantine is quite limited
Though the federal government has some ability to prevent the spread of a communicable disease, as a practical matter, there cannot really be a comprehensive federal response to coronavirus.
That’s because the day-to-day decisions about whether to shut down schools, close down major events, or implement a mass quarantine are likely to be made by state and local officials who may have wildly different views about how they should act. Not only is New York’s response to coronavirus likely to differ from Florida’s, but Miami’s response could be quite different than Orlando’s.
If I am quarantined, what are my rights?
The Constitution divides power between the states and the federal government, but it also protects certain individual rights. Among them is the right to not be denied “liberty” without “due process.”
It should be noted that there’s a big difference between a procedural right and a substantive right (although the Supreme Court has, at times, blurred this line). There is no freestanding constitutional right to go about your normal life while an epidemic endangers many people’s lives. At the same time, the government cannot simply confine people for arbitrary reasons, or without providing an adequate explanation.
If you are quarantined, you do not necessarily have a right to be released from that quarantine, but you do have a right to demand some sort of adjudicative process to determine whether the quarantine is justified.