Biden order would allow government to require quarantine for measles cases

The Biden administration on Friday added measles to the list of quarantinable diseases following a small outbreak of the disease among recent arrivals from Afghanistan.  

The executive order adds measles to the list of diseases for which Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have the authority to issue federal quarantine orders, requiring individuals who have been diagnosed with or exposed to measles to self-isolate to protect public health.  

“This action was taken at the request of public health officials, who cited the cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the U.S. as well as several previous outbreaks of measles in recent years,” a White House spokesperson told The Hill by email. 

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The Biden administration recently suspended flights bringing Afghan evacuees currently housed in military bases abroad following six confirmed cases of measles.

A measles vaccine was already required upon landing but amid the pause on flights the Department of Defense has begun administering the measles vaccine abroad, waiting to resume flights until everyone is fully inoculated.

The executive order would have ramifications beyond the resumption of flights, giving the government the power to compel quarantine for a disease that has seen an uptick in recent years amid broader vaccine hesitancy.  

Measles cases jumped to 1,282 cases in 2019, the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992, according to the CDC. 

“The majority of cases were among people who were not vaccinated against measles. Measles is more likely to spread and cause outbreaks in U.S. communities where groups of people are unvaccinated,” the CDC noted

The move follows efforts by the Biden administration to combat vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19, requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccination in the workplace or weekly testing.