Isolation and Quarantine Procedures

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Isolation and Quarantine Procedures

In 2002, the Minnesota Legislature approved protections for people infected with or exposed to a communicable disease who may require isolation or quarantine. These included provisions for expedited court hearings and health and safety protection. The 2004 legislature voted to retain those provisions, which are now scheduled to expire in August 2005.

Recent events at the global level demonstrate the need to continue these provisions. These events include the 2003 SARS outbreak, current reports of avian influenza (bird flu) in Asia, and the continuing risk of bioterrorism. SARS caused 8,098 cases of illness and 774 deaths worldwide in 2003. In Minnesota, 11 people were evaluated as potential SARS cases. The experience of Toronto – with hundreds of cases, 44 deaths, and 27,000 persons in quarantine – illustrates how quickly government must be ready to act to protect public health. The 27 administrative orders for quarantine in Toronto show that health protection requires the use of limited – but significant – legal powers.

Exercises conducted in Minnesota at the state and local level – involving public health, emergency responders, and the court system – have highlighted the need for an effective legal framework governing isolation and quarantine procedures. Appropriate statutory provisions will ensure the consistent application of authority, and lay out the procedures to be followed in advance of an actual event.

Provisions to be Retained

1. Right to refuse testing and treatment.

2. Expedited court hearings and administrative action.

3. Health and safety requirements for persons in isolation or quarantine.

4. A court administered process for intervening if an individual’s health and safety needs are not met.

New Provisions

1. Clarification of peace officer authority for enforcing isolation or quarantine under a commissioner’s temporary hold or a court order.

2. Modification of commissioner’s temporary hold to start court process immediately and make hold as short as possible.

3. Establishment of a process for appointment and payment of defense counsel.

4. Dissemination of information about personal protection to peace officers and defense counsel.

5. Authorization to hold court hearings regarding isolation or quarantine through electronic means.

6. Job protection for employees who are recommended for isolation or quarantine.

7. Provision for the commissioner of health to authorize persons who can assist in providing vaccinations or medications in an emergency.

Who is affected?

All Minnesotans are potentially affected by a communicable disease outbreak. Experience in Toronto and other areas has shown clarity of public health roles and responsibilities to be critical in protecting lives and property, and sustaining the economy.

Sick or exposed individuals will have the right to expedited court hearings, rapid access to defense counsel, job protection, and isolation or quarantine in the least restrictive setting possible.

Local and state government personnel, and health care providers, will have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities during a communicable disease outbreak.

What are the consequences if this legislation does not pass?

1. The commissioner of health will have to rely on general laws written over 100 years ago in managing a communicable disease outbreak.

2. Modernized and expedited procedures to assure due process will not be available for individuals who are recommended for – or ordered to be placed in – isolation or quarantine.

3. Individuals may have difficulty complying with isolation or quarantine recommendations because they have no guarantees that their health and safety will be protected, and they have not been afforded employment protection.

4. The public’s risk of exposure to individuals who are sick or may have been infected with a communicable disease will be much greater, and the potential for additional disease transmission will be increased.

Individuals and groups providing input to date:

  • Task Force on Terrorism and Health
  • Homeland Security Advisory Committee
  • State Com. Health Services Adv. Committee
  • Minnesota Local Public Health Association
  • Minnesota Hospital Association
  • Minnesota Medical Association
  • Minnesota Board of Medical Practice
  • Minnesota Dental Association
  • County Attorney’s Association
  • Minnesota Council of Health Plans
  • Minnesota Public Health Association
  • Association of Minnesota Counties
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Ramsey County Court Administrator
  • Minnesota Business Partnership
  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
  • Minnesota Board of Nursing
  • Minnesota Ambulance Association
  • Minnesota Nurses Association
Updated Tuesday, 16-Nov-2010 12:27:53 CST