With the hype about COVID-19 happening right now, I am taking the best advice to not panic, use good hygiene, and my internal lawyer voice is all excited about the “power of production” and “power to quarantine” that may or may not be used.
Below is my basic attempt at explaining what these two powers are, what they would mean if used, and why this lawyer is interested to see how they would be used.
Power of Production aka 50 USC 55: Defense Production
This policy could be used when the security of the United States is dependent upon the ability of domestic industries to supply materials or services for national defense, to prepare for or respond to military conflicts, natural or man-made disasters, or acts of terrorism.
There are rules governing all of this and the government is to make an effort to foster cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors, which means that the Federal Government cannot come in a force companies to do anything. However, this policy would allow the Federal Government to encourage companies, or even their own agencies, to make more masks, gloves, medication, vaccinations, etc.
FEMA has a really nice short explanation of this policy and what it means. I recommend reading their explanation if you want to learn more about this act.
If this policy is used, it would be interesting to see what materials are needed and how the federal government would enact this policy.
Power of Quarantine aka 42 USC 264 – Quarantine and Inspection
This policy could be used when the the Surgeon General with approval from specified others in the Federal Government judge it necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of specific communicable disease. The CDClists the communicable diseases, that in 1983 was expanded to include any influenza caused by novel or re-emergent viruses that cause or have the potential to cause a pandemic.
Quarantine is not putting people in concentration camps. Please do not think Koremastu v. United States (323 US 214 (1944)). Quarantine is separating and restricting the movement of people who are exposed or are sick, additionally it allows the Federal Government and States to take action to isolate people who are sick for the benefit of society.
This act is currently being used by the CDC to quarantine U.S. Citizens who arrived from China, or other impacted regions.
The most interesting piece of this policy will be how it is used and how it evolves if COVID-19 starts becoming more widespread in the United States.
While I am not a doctor, I do advise that you practice good hygiene and listen to medical professionals on the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and diseases.