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FLASHBACK: Obama Administration Dumps Quarantine Rules

FLASHBACK: Obama Administration Dumps Quarantine Rules



The Obama administration withdrew updated quarantine regulations in 2010, prompting questions about how the policy change may have impacted the current Ebola situation.

In April 2010, Politico reported the administration “quietly dumped quarantine rules that would have required air passengers to submit more information to airlines and strengthened the government’s authority to detain travelers suspected of carrying disease.”

Politico initially reported in August of 2009 that the Obama administration examined Bush administration 2005 quarantine regulations, which were criticized by civil liberty advocates.

“The proposals to limit liberty represent a dangerous precedent to constitutional theory, particularly when there’s almost no evidence it will matter… It wouldn’t surprise me if they try to sneak this past in August, when people are away,” said Wendy Mariner, a professor of law and public health at Boston University of the Bush proposal, which would have required airlines and cruise lines to store additional data about domestic and international travelers, like e-mail addresses, traveling companions, and return flight information. However, giving the information would have been voluntary for the passengers.

The Centers for Disease Control sent the new rules forward for formal approval in June, 2009, despite the criticism.

“It’s important to public health to move forward with the regulations,” CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told Politico. “We need to update our quarantine regulations, and this final rule is an important step.”

However, the CDC later withdrew the regulations from the approval process at the Office of Management and Budget.

“Upon further discussion and review across the government, it has become clear that further revision and reconsideration is necessary to update the regulations and make them more in line with ongoing government preparedness and public health planning and strategies,” CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell told POLITICO last week. 

She added, “In addition, much has been learned in terms of public health response since 2005, and that information and those lessons learned are vital in the crafting of new regulations.”

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