By Aaron Robinow, Law Clerk at Rose Law Group
Quarantine may be imposed by order from the federal and state governments or may instead be the recommendation of medical professionals.
Both the federal government though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state governments have broad authority to impose and enforce quarantines when necessary to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authority to detain, medically examine, and release travelers arriving into the U.S. or traveling between two states who are suspected of carrying communicable diseases. Quarantine orders can be done through specific isolation orders to individuals or by a large-scale, mass quarantines covering targeted areas (last exercised in 1919). Quarantine orders can be enforced through fines and sometimes by arrest or criminal sanction.
By contrast, recommendations to self-isolate or self-quarantine might be reasoned and sound medical advice but are not made under the threat of criminal sanction, arrest, or fine.
Navigating these situations may be tricky, so a thorough analysis of each fact pattern is needed.