Responding to the coronavirus outbreak in China, where tens of thousands of citizens suspected of being infected with coronavirus (COVID-2019) have been detained and involuntarily taken to quarantine camps, on Feb. 1, 2020 an executive order was issued by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, directing the U.S. Northern Command to implement the DoD’s Global Campaign Plan for Pandemic and Infectious Diseases. On Feb. 12, 2020, orders were sent to the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy directing “geographic combatant commanders to execute their pandemic plans in response to the NCOV outbreak.”
The U.S. Marine Corps directive told combat commanders to “review, update and validate existing disease containment plans and policies in order to implement procedures for response, isolation, quarantine, restriction of movement and community-based intervention” and to “become familiar with authority to declare a public health emergency, restrict movement, quarantine and isolate [and[ coordinate with Federal, State, local, and military treatment facilities and public health emergency officials…” The U.S. Navy directive stated, “DoD will continue to follow CDC guidance and comply with local public health authorities during this outbreak.”
The scope of the mission of the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy’s involvement in implementing the DoD’s Global Campaign Plan for Pandemic and Infectious Diseases in a civilian population is not clear as that Plan does not appear to have been publicly released by DoD.
In general, however, the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) prohibits the carte blanche use of military forces in civilian law enforcement in the U.S.
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