Q: What is a quarantine?
A: Quarantine is the separation of people who have been exposed to an infection, but are not yet ill, from people who have not been exposed.

Q: What government agency has authority to impose a public health quarantine?
A: In cases of communicable diseases that threaten to spread across state or national borders, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can impose quarantines subject to the limitations of the U.S. Constitution. Within a state, the authority rests with the state, and in Maine, that power is held by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Q: When can the state enforce a public health quarantine?
A: State law authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to designate facilities or private homes “for confinement and treatment of infected persons posing a public health threat.” An infected person is someone who has a communicable disease or harbors an infectious agent. A public health threat is any behavior that places others at significant risk of exposure to an infection. That includes refusing to comply with a cease and desist order or a court order issued to the infected person to prevent transmission of disease.

Q:  Can the state just take a sick person into custody to prevent the spread of disease?
A: The state must convince a judge “by clear and convincing evidence” that the person must be taken into custody immediately to “avoid a clear and immediate public health threat.”

Q:  Can a person challenge such an order?
A: Yes. The law requires that a court hearing be held within 72 hours. The hearing is confidential, though the person can request a public hearing.
The state does not need a court order if it declares an “extreme public health emergency,” which means the “occurrence or imminent threat of widespread exposure to a highly infectious or toxic agent that poses an imminent threat of substantial harm to the population of the state.”

Q:  Is there a chance the state won’t succeed?
A: Yes. According to Paul Millus, a litigator with the New York firm Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, the absence of any symptoms will make it hard for the state to prove there is an actual or threatened epidemic or show medical evidence that Hickox needs to be quarantined.

SOURCE: Maine state statutes and the Congressional Research Service

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