March 16th, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
On the face of it, expanding powers to screen, test and quarantine people traveling within and without the US during a crisis, like the Ebola outbreak in 2014, sounds like a good idea. After all, limiting the scope and reach of dangerous infectious disease such as MERS, SARS or Yellow Fever is in the public interest for health and safety. I think we would also agree it’s important the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) be allowed to act quickly and decisively in the event of an outbreak in order to contain it.
But some feel the new rule adopted by the agency — which greatly broadens its power and has bypassed Congressional oversight — is overstepping its authority and crosses a line that endangers personal liberties and rights.
On President Obama’s last day in office, the CDC significantly expanded it’s own authority to “apprehend, isolate and quarantine individuals suspected of having any of nine diseases on the US quarantine list” — like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola, plague, cholera, yellow fever and smallpox.
While the old rule already authorized the CDC to detain people suspected of carrying infectious diseases such as those above, it was limited primarily to people entering the country or crossing state lines. Moreover, the CDC almost always deferred to state and local health officials.
Under the new final rule, the CDC is able to detain individuals anywhere in the country without first receiving approval on a state and local level. Additionally, the criteria for an “ill person” has been expanded, where the agency can detain a much wider group of people. Common and vague symptoms like fever, headache and cramps all fall under this new yardstick to be used for measuring risk to public health. Airline and ship crew will now be required to report these and other symptoms to the CDC. One of the most disturbing aspects of the new rule is that the agency can detain you for up to 72 hours at their discretion, while the case is reviewed by the CDC itself instead of a neutral third party, before deciding on quarantine measures.
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