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    USA Today: Obama administration scraps quarantine regulations

    USA Today reports that the Obama administration is scrapping quarantine powers that the Bush administration proposed in 2005 and 2006. I worked on the issue several years ago, and I am glad that the Obama administration has rejected the Bush proposal. The proposed rule would have broadened the list of symptoms that made travelers subject to quarantine. It would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to detain a sick person for three business days without a hearing. After the three days had passed, the CDC Director would have the power to quarantine the passenger until the end of “the period of incubation and communicability for the communicable disease as determined by the Director,” according to the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register. For the diseases set out as examples by the CDC, that incubation and communicability period could be five days to 90 days. During that period, the quarantined person would be able to have an administrative hearing, but only to dispute factual evidence on whether the person has been exposed to a disease. Legal or constitutional claims could not be addressed by the hearing, though detainees could petition for a writ of habeas corpus for judicial review of the quarantine order.

    USA Today reports:

    The regulations, proposed in 2005 during the Bush administration amid fears of avian flu, would have given the federal government additional powers to detain sick airline passengers and those exposed to certain diseases. They also would have expanded requirements for airlines to report ill passengers to the CDC and mandated that airlines collect and maintain contact information for fliers in case they later needed to be traced as part of an investigation into an outbreak. […]

    CDC officials had stressed the rules would only be used in rare circumstances when someone posed a threat and refused to cooperate. The new rules, they noted at the time, added legal protections and appeals for those subject to quarantines.

    CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC’s parent agency, withdrew the proposed regulations after discussion across the government made it clear that “further revision and reconsideration is necessary to update the regulations.”

    HHS and the CDC are crafting new regulations that will incorporate public health lessons learned since 2005, Pearson said in the statement. She did not elaborate and referred questions to HHS. […]

    Even in the Bush administration, some were skeptical of the CDC’s 2005 proposal, said Stewart Baker, assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009. “There were a lot of questions about how plausible it was to treat airports as a place where you could stop and inspect and quarantine people,” Baker said Thursday.

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