Posted: September 01, 2009
By Chelsea Schilling
Pandemic bill allows health authorities to enter homes, detain without warrant
A “pandemic response bill” currently making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature would allow authorities to forcefully quarantine citizens in the event of a health emergency, compel health providers to vaccinate citizens, authorize forceful entry into private dwellings and destruction of citizen property and impose fines on citizens for noncompliance.
If citizens refuse to comply with isolation or quarantine orders in the event of a health emergency, they may be imprisoned for up to 30 days and fined $1,000 per day that the violation continues.
Massachusetts’ pandemic response bill
“Pandemic Response Bill” 2028 was passed by the Massachusetts state Senate on April 28 and is now awaiting approval in the House.
As stated in the bill, upon declaration by the governor that an emergency exists that is considered detrimental to public health or upon declaration of a state of emergency, a local public health authority, with approval of the commissioner, may exercise the following authorities (emphasis added):
- to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;
- to close, direct, and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated any building or facility, and to allow the reopening of the building or facility when the danger has ended;
- to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, or to destroy any material;
- to restrict or prohibit assemblages of persons;
- to require a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility, or to transfer the management and supervision of the health care facility to the department or to a local public health authority;
- to control ingress to and egress from any stricken or threatened public area, and the movement of persons and materials within the area;
- to adopt and enforce measures to provide for the safe disposal of infectious waste and human remains, provided that religious, cultural, family, and individual beliefs of the deceased person shall be followed to the extent possible when disposing of human remains, whenever that may be done without endangering the public health;
- to procure, take immediate possession from any source, store, or distribute any anti-toxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical agents or medical supplies located within the commonwealth as may be necessary to respond to the emergency;
- to require in-state health care providers to assist in the performance of vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of any individual as a condition of licensure, authorization, or the ability to continue to function as a health care provider in the commonwealth;
- to waive the commonwealth’s licensing requirements for health care professionals with a valid license from another state in the United States or whose professional training would otherwise qualify them for an appropriate professional license in the commonwealth;
- to allow for the dispensing of controlled substance by appropriate personnel consistent with federal statutes as necessary for the prevention or treatment of illness;
- to authorize the chief medical examiner to appoint and prescribe the duties of such emergency assistant medical examiners as may be required for the proper performance of the duties of office;
- to collect specimens and perform tests on any animal, living or deceased;
- to care for any emerging mental health or crisis counseling needs that individuals may exhibit, with the consent of the individuals
State and local agencies responding to the public health emergency would be required to exercise their powers over transportation routes, communication devices, carriers, public utilities, fuels, food, clothing and shelter, according to the legislation.
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