2023 Bills

SB 116: Prohibiting Public Health Quarantines

This bill did not receive a vote. 

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it aligns with our principles and should therefore be passed into law.

Two years ago, the Utah Legislature enacted several reforms to respond to how governments throughout the state restricted people’s essential freedoms as a result of COVID-19—including a prohibition on mandating the vaccine and new limitations on how executive officials in government can impose restrictions like quarantines and mask mandates.

There are many other areas of the law that need reform, including the ability of unelected public health officials to order someone to quarantine. Utah law still says that health departments can “establish, maintain, and enforce isolation and quarantine, and exercise physical control over property and over individuals as the local health department finds necessary for the protection of the public health.”

This broad provision of law allows unelected officials to impose significant and extreme measures against a person without due process or electoral accountability.

Senator Mike Kennedy is sponsoring Senate Bill 116 to change this. The bill would eliminate this provision and instead say that such health departments may only “recommend that an individual isolate or quarantine as the local health department determines necessary to protect the public health.”

Moving public health officials from an executive role to an advisory one is an appropriate step that is commensurate with the political authority of unelected officials. As was evident in retrospect—or even at the time, to many—the draconian measures employed by many health departments were unhelpful, unnecessary, and in some cases counterproductive. Allowing such officials to impose their will on the masses is absurd when the opinions of these bureaucrats are often wrong.