Yes, the Federal Government Can …

For many Americans stuck at home due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the idea of being quarantined now feels strangely normal. But just a few months ago, the thought was unbelievable.

Jarred Evans, an American professional football player, was playing in a league in China when COVID-19 first broke out in Wuhan. In January, he and other Americans were flown to a military base in California, where they were forced to quarantine for weeks. Turns out, they were the first Americans to be forcibly quarantined by the federal government in more than fifty years.

“It would either be that or I guess in jail,” Evans told VICE News.

Although President Trump has not taken the step of issuing a nationwide quarantine order, the federal government does have the authority to do so. It rarely flexes the power, choosing to delegate the responsibility to state and local authorities. People subject to quarantines can challenge them in court. And in the past, many have won.

In this time of a global pandemic, VICE News looks back at government attempts to impose orders of isolation and quarantine to find instances when it was successful — and when it failed.

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