Some questioning constitutionality of tri-state travel quarantines

Photo: Pixabay / MGN
Photo: Pixabay / MGN(WCTV)
Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service

March 26, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Constitutional questions are being raised over whether the governor can order air passengers from virus infected areas to self quarantine.

If those passengers wanted to slip into the state, they could do it at small airports where there is no screening.

There are at least 53 daily flights scheduled from Atlanta to the smaller airports like Gainesville, Tallahassee, Sarasota, Pensacola and Panama City, where passengers fleeing the New York Tri-State area could head to Florida and avoid being told too quarantine.

Governor Ron DeSantis is unhappy that anyone from that area is coming at all.

“And if you are somebody who left, you know if you were in New York State, you left when you were told to shelter in place. You defied that and you got on a plane and came here. And so we don’t want there to be any fallout here in the state of Florida from that,” said the governor.

The executive order, which is being handed out to arriving passengers in major airports, tells them to quarantine for at least two weeks after arriving.

Violating it potentially carries a 60-day jail sentence an a $500 fine.

“You can’t get a flight from China to Florida or anywhere in the country, but somehow, you can just do 200 flights, direct, into various parts of Florida, from a hotspot that’s much more significant,” said DeSantis.

While there are no National Guardsmen meeting arriving passengers in the state capital, it’s almost a moot point.

Most flights to Tallahassee are cancelled.

Several civil rights organizations are looking at whether the order violates the interstate commerce clause and a clause the prohibits discriminating against people from other states.

But a University of Florida law professor, who asked to remain anonymous, said by the time any challenge made it to court, the problem would likely be over.

The isolation order is slated to remain in effect until it’s lifted, and constitutional experts say the indefinite timeline could also be a constitutional problem.