Acting Justice Ronald D. Ploetz ruled that the COVID-19 quarantine rules in New York are unconstitutional and illegal.
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This month, a New York Supreme Court judge issued a confidential ruling declaring regulations requiring the quarantine of individuals who have been exposed to or infected with highly contagious communicable diseases to be illegal and void.
Rule 2.13, also known as the isolation and quarantine procedures, was implemented in February.
Under the rule, “whenever appropriate to control the spread of a highly contagious communicable disease, the State Commissioner of Health may issue and/or may direct the local health authority to issue isolation and/or quarantine orders, consistent with due process of law, to all such persons as the State Commissioner of Health shall determine appropriate.”
As long as it is “appropriate” in the opinion of the public health authority issuing the order, isolations may occur at home, in residential or temporary housing, or in any other setting.
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The guideline does state, however, that “where symptoms or conditions indicate that medical care in a general hospital is expected to be required, the isolation location shall be a general hospital.”
In a lawsuit against Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett, the state’s health department, and the Public Health and Health Planning Council, three Republican state legislators—Sen. George Borrello, Assemblyman Chris Tague, Assemblyman Michael Lawler, and Uniting NYS—have joined forces.
Plaintiffs claimed that the isolation and quarantine policies violated the separation of powers and the New York State Constitution.
“It’s unconstitutional in our eyes, and anything like that should go through the legislature,” Tague told local media. “It should have an opportunity to be debated. To be able to have facts brought forth by health professionals, and leaders within our communities before we just decide to put something into law.”
Acting Justice Ronald D. Ploetz of the Cattaraugus County Supreme Court ruled (pdf below) in favor of the plaintiffs on July 8 and claimed that the rule just gives “lip service” to constitutional due process.
“Involuntary detention is a severe deprivation of individual liberty, far more egregious than other health safety measures, such as requiring mask wearing at certain venues. Involuntary quarantine may have far-reaching consequences such as loss of income (or employment) and isolation from family,” Ploetz wrote.
The judge further stated that the rule was not supported by “no scientific data or expert testimony.”
“Respondents offered no scientific data or expert testimony why Rule 2.13 was a necessary response to combat COVID-19, but instead contend only that it would provide a quick and nimble approach to combating the pandemic,” wrote the judge. “Nevertheless, during oral argument of this matter, at a time when we hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, counsel for the Respondents were unable to cite any instance where the procedure set forth in Rule 2.13 was actually utilized.”
Although the court left open the possibility of further appeals, he did state in his decision that the rule is void “until the New York State Legislation acts otherwise.
“We feel very confident that if we appeal this, we will be successful,” Hochul said in a statement to the local media on Tuesday, announcing that she will be appealing the court’s ruling.
Local news sources claim that the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James formally challenged the state Supreme Court decision on Wednesday.
The decision comes as Hochul’s office said on Wednesday that hospitalizations have surged recently, reaching 2,397 patients, and that the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in New York has grown from 30.53 per 100,000 individuals to 35.28.
However, of those who were hospitalized, 57.5% were treated for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.
Read the ruling given below: