The Legal and Administrative Framework for the Force Separation of Families During Pandemic

By a Solari Report Subscriber,

The Legal and Administrative Framework for the Force Separation of Families During Pandemic

Non-Congregate Sheltering:

At the beginning of the COVID-19 Plandemic, there were rumors and fears of children being removed from homes due to families not being able to "safely quarantine" together. This was instigated by various health agencies making statements that families would have to be forcibly separated to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the United States, a memorable example of this was when the Health Director for Ventura County California stated that they might have to force people out of their homes. i This paralleled Dr. Michael Ryan’s statement to the World Health Organization in March 2020 that family members would need to be removed from homes. ii Additionally, the State of Washington Department of Children and Youth Services caused a firestorm when it published a job opening for someone to care for children in quarantine shelters. iii The State later denied that this was for the purpose of taking kids out of their homes and stated it was only for foster kids in state custody. iv The blowback from these statements was short and intense, and officials quickly "orrected" themselves. Unfortunately for them, you cannot unring a rung bell.

It is very difficult to find any information on children actually being taken from homes due to COVID-19. There are no verifiable news stories, other than some internet rumors. It is also getting increasingly difficult to find articles on the internet related to the issue of the open statements made by health officials about separating families. These stories are fading into the proverbial online sunset, just as contact tracing and a the potential threat of a COVID-19 vaccine are bubbling up in the news.

The purpose of this article is to outline the legal and structural framework that makes the forced separation of family members over a COVID-19 contact tracing a very real and legal possibility. The legal and administrative structures created from the pandemic circumvent the safeguards traditionally found in the family law and dependency courts. A health officer only needs to declare a family member a potential spreader of disease for this to happen. Once a family member is on the contact tracing radar, then the possibility of required "on-congregate sheltering" is very real.

The key term here is "non-congregate shelter" which means there are individual rooms where people are held in quarantine and thus not a place where a group of people congregate. FEMA issued guidance related to "non-congregate" housing on March 30, 2020. v The purpose of non-congregate housing is to isolate people for a period of time until they are no longer infectious. vi This is targeted at specific populationscolon:

  1. those who are not hospitalized but "need isolation";
  2. people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization and
  3. asymptomatic "high-risk individuals needing social distancing as a precautionary measure, such as people over 65 or with certain underlying health conditions (respiratory, compromised immunities, chronic disease)."

vii This has been mirrored in almost every state. Recently, the governor of Ohio issued an executive order on "non-congregate" housing, using almost identical language. viii In fact almost every state has put something similar in place: New York, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, and North Carolina to name a few. ix x xi xii xiii FEMA allocates funding to provide non-congregate shelters and has put forth an elaborate administrative process for awarding said funds to participating States.xiv

The Omnipotent Health Officer.

The laws allowing for emergency health declarations during pandemic have been around a very long time. The statutory framework for the federal government and states to force people into quarantine is nothing new.xv Each State has its own legislation related to public health quarantines and isolations of people, and many states have given broad and sweeping police powers to deal with pandemics. Of course, these laws were all passed during non-pandemic times, when the constituency was not paying close attention. These laws give a designated person in a state almost total power to make declarations and orders. xvi In each state, there can be criminal penalties for not following the direction of the "health officer." xvii There is a fairly parallel process that each state follows when deciding to quarantine a person. The following is a rough overview of the legal framework in place that will allow state and county health departments to isolate and quarantine an individual colon:

The process starts with "contact tracing." xviii When a person tests positive, they are contacted by a "contact tracer" who interviews them in an effort to find all of the people the positive person was in contact with. Each state or county will have their own system. xix The process then follows an intensifying series of events colon:

  1. The person is contacted by a "health officer" or contact tracer and asked to voluntarily quarantine for a certain period of time (usually 10-14 days).
  2. If the person refuses to “voluntarily comply" then the health officer has to determine if the person is a threat to the community (will travel, will expose others, etc.). If the answer is yes, then the health office can seek an emergency order and get the police involved.
  3. Anyone violating the order can be convicted of a gross misdemeanor and may face fines and jail time.
  4. A person can be forcibly quarantined for a short period of time pending a court order for a longer period of quarantine.xx

Now, the door is open for courts to enter orders severely limiting a person’s rights and forcing them into isolation and quarantine. A judge will be faced with the following choices:

  1. order the person into quarantine; or,
  2. refuse to order them into quarantine and risk having a larger health outbreak.

Practically speaking, most judges are more likely to follow the requests of the “health officer” than to err on the side of releasing a potential danger to the public.

The health officer is going to be seen as the "expert" on the subject, and most people will not have the wherewithal to hire a good attorney and experts to push back against their state’s emergency request. These hearings take place quickly and a person is most likely to be ordered into quarantine. After all, ordering a relatively short stay in a "non-congregate shelter" is going to be an easier alternative for the judge than being named in headlines about releasing a super-spreader into the public.

A Targeted Group?

Much of the concern about forcing families apart has been focused on removing children from homes. While this is a real possibility, this has distracted us from the potential of removing older adults from their families and placing them in isolation.

The literature, and even proposed legislation related to expanding non-congregative shelters, focuses on those deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 which is generally defined as those over 65 years old. The question of concern is whether the at-risk group defined as those 65 years and older will be removed from their families and forced into some motel or college dorm room designated by some government official. Proposed federal legislation, HR 6840 entitled Coronavirus Non-Congregate Housing Expansion Act specifically states that non-congregate shelter means shelter for:

  • individuals who are asymptomatic of COVID-19, but have a higher risk, including individuals over 65 or individuals with certain underlying health conditions (including respiratory, compromised immunities, and chronic disease), and that require emergency non-congregate shelting (sic) as a social distancing measure”.xxi

Notice they are talking about isolating people who are "asymptomatic”" Example:

Grandpa Joe was potentially exposed by a family member, and now needs to be removed from his home and placed into a shelter, even though Grandpa Joe knows his home, his family, and has no symptoms. Since we don’t want to take any chances, he will be moved to a strange place, surrounded by strangers and completely isolated from those people who love and care for him. Once isolated and alone, it is not hard to see that Grandpa Joe may not fair well, and there will be no one there to advocate for him.

As contact tracing gains momentum, we are going to see more and more people placed into various hotels, dorm rooms, and re-purposed office buildings for non-congregate sheltering. Public school buildings are being kept empty as students are forced to online at home instruction. Unfortunately, and without a doubt, we will see families separated for long periods of time, while vulnerable members of the family are taken out of the watchful eyes of those that love them.

Related Solari Report:

Special Solari Report: Contact Tracing & the HEROES Act with Mary Holland