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New Yorkers could be detained if deemed ‘public health threat’ says proposed Assembly bill

Some commuters at Union Station adorn breathing masks. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times/TNS)
January 04, 2021

New York’s governor and health officials could detain anyone suspected of carrying a contagious disease, like COVID-19, under a new bill recently introduced in the New York State Assembly.

First introduced in 2015 in response to the Ebola outbreak, the legislation never passed, but Assemblyman N. Nick Perry sponsored the latest version that said if the governor “declares a state of health emergency due to an epidemic of a communicable disease” then state officials can detain those who are already ill or even suspected of being sick.

The bill states that “upon determining by clear and convincing evidence that the health of others is or may be endangered by a case, contact or carrier, or suspected case, contact or carrier of a contagious disease that, in the opinion of the governor, after consultation with the commissioner, may pose an imminent and significant threat to the public health resulting in severe morbitity or high mortality” the governor and other state health officials “may order the removal and/or detention of such a person or of a group of such persons.”

Those detained would be held in a medical facility or “other appropriate facility or premises designated by the governor.”

In order to be released, the state must determine if a person is no longer contagious and “no longer presents a potential danger to the health of others.”

According to the legislation, individuals can be held for up to three days, but the governor could apply for a court order requesting an extended detention, allowing people to be held longer.  

“A person who is detained in a medical facility, or other appropriate facility or premises, shall not conduct himself or herself in a disorderly manner, and shall not leave or attempt to leave such facility or premises until he or she is discharged,” the bill states.

In addition to detaining people who are sick or suspected of being sick, the bill would also allow the governor to issue, seek and enforce “any other orders that he or she determines are necessary or appropriate to prevent dissemination or transmission of contagious disease or other illnesses that may pose a threat to the public health.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Perry said the legislation would not violate individual liberty.

“There is no intent, no plan, or provisions in my bill to take away, or violate any rights, or liberties that all Americans are entitled to under our constitution, either state or federal,” his statement read.

Critics dubbed the controversial legislation the “Gulag Bill,” and Republican Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor said it would cause New Yorkers to suffer “years of unspeakable abuses to their liberties.”

“If the Gulag Bill became law, useful idiots in the press would likely provide cover and rationalize the need for the legislation,” Lalor said in a statement. “By the time the constitutionality of detaining people without due process was adjudicated by the courts, it would be too late. New Yorkers would have suffered years of unspeakable abuses to their liberties.”

The #GulagBill has been reintroduced for the 2021-2022 session. According to the bill’s sponsor, the proposed…

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“This bill is brazenly unconstitutional and a threat to the civil liberties of all New Yorkers,” he continued, adding, “The mere existence of this bill is an unacceptable threat to the rights of all New Yorkers. It should be withdrawn immediately.”