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The New York State Capitol in Albany on March 30, 2021. (AP) The New York State Capitol in Albany on March 30, 2021. (AP)

The New York State Capitol in Albany on March 30, 2021. (AP)

Jill Terreri Ramos
By Jill Terreri Ramos April 29, 2023

‘Quarantine camps’ takes NY public health rule too far

If Your Time is short

  • A rule that sparked a legal dispute does not call for quarantine camps. 

  • New York state has not set up quarantine camps, and does not plan to, experts told us. 

  • The disputed rule allows the state to quarantine or isolate people who have been exposed to or have been diagnosed with a serious illness. 


Are there quarantine camps in New York? Will you be imprisoned if you’re suspected of illness? These are questions circulating on social media about a New York state rule, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, over quarantining and isolation. The rule drew a lawsuit and stoked panic online. The state is appealing a lower court decision, and arguments are expected this fall. 

One Facebook post urged followers: "stop NY Governor Hochul’s quarantine camps! She wants to imprison you if you’re just suspected of being exposed to a disease!" 

The lawsuit centers on a regulation -- Section 2.13 of Title 10 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York -- adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule had been extended in 90-day periods, and the state has said it wants to make it permanent. 

The rule states: "For the purposes of quarantine orders, quarantine locations may include home quarantine, other residential or temporary housing quarantine, or quarantine at such other locations as the public health authority issuing the order deems appropriate, consistent with any direction that the State Commissioner of Health may issue." 

Under the disputed rule, the setting for quarantine and isolation can include a temporary housing location chosen by a public health authority, though in most cases people would voluntarily isolate in their homes. 

The rule calls for coordination with law enforcement to ensure people comply with isolation or quarantine orders when necessary. The state has not operated camps for people infected with COVID-19, and experts said it won’t start. 

What follows is a fact-check of the statement circulating online, not a fact-check of the claims in the lawsuit. 

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Republican Assemblymembers Michael Lawler, who lives in Pearl River and is now in Congress, and Chris Tague, of Schoharie, and the citizens’ organization Uniting NYS, sued Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Health Department over the rule, arguing it breached the separation of powers. Borello’s lawsuit said the department, as an executive branch agent, lacked the authority to institute the rule’s isolation and quarantine procedures. 

Borrello, who represents Jamestown and Batavia, argued that New York’s existing public health laws provide for civil commitment for people who are known to be sick, and they allow for due process, whereas the state Health Department rule did not. The plaintiffs argued that the disputed rule allows for someone who is ordered to isolate or quarantine to seek relief from the courts after the fact, which is a breach of due process. In existing law, they said, judicial relief can be sought before quarantine. 

"Petitioners have a fundamental right to freely go about their lives without the fear of, or the actuality of, being forced to isolate themselves or quarantine in a facility designated by Respondents, for however long Respondents deem appropriate, simply because the Respondents suspect the Petitioners may have a communicable disease," the plaintiffs wrote.  

Borrello told PolitiFact that in certain circumstances, involuntary detention is called for in the rule.

"You can use a variety of terms, including some that may sound less alarming, but in the end, they are all the same thing: involuntary detention facilities," Borrello said. "The language used in the (Health Department) regulation does not specify or rule out any type of structure."  

Borello and his co-plaintiffs won their lawsuit in State Supreme Court in a July decision issued by State Supreme Court Acting Justice Ronald D. Ploetz in Cattaraugus County. Ploetz said the rule conflicted with existing state law and was unenforceable. 

The state said the new rule clarifies existing law, but Ploetz found the state Health Department acted beyond the Legislature’s intent, saying the rule "disregards any balancing of individual rights against public safety needs." Ploetz’s decision also said the rule gives "lip service" to constitutional due process, though he added that his ruling did not determine whether the regulation breached the state’s due process protections. 

The state is appealing in the Appellate Division’s Fourth Department. Oral arguments are expected this fall

The state’s appeal maintains that the state has long-standing powers that the Legislature has authorized to contain communicable diseases. Civil commitment, a more restrictive environment than quarantine and isolation, is not a feature of the state’s quarantine and isolation laws, though it could be a consequence of violating it, state lawyers wrote. They rejected arguments that due process would be denied in these cases. 

We asked Lawrence O. Gostin, a Georgetown Law School professor who has been involved in public policy pertaining to epidemics such as Ebola and Zika, about the Facebook quarantine camp claim. He said New York state doesn’t intend to introduce quarantine camps.

"This is completely untrue," he said of the Facebook claim. "Every state in the country allows for quarantine of individuals who are exposed to dangerous infectious diseases and may transmit the infection to others." 

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Quarantine has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and is also a power held by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said. 

"Imagine if someone was exposed to extremely drug resistant tuberculosis or to smallpox. We wouldn't want to have them flying on a plane if they might be infectious and infect all the passengers. This is just Public Health 101 and is nothing out of the ordinary," Gostin said. 

The quarantine period lasts only until it’s known whether a person is infected, he said. 

Kathleen Hoke, director of the Eastern Region of the Network for Public Health Law, said quarantine doesn’t necessarily involve putting people somewhere. Most of the time, she said, it takes place in someone’s home.

"There is no such thing as quarantine or isolation camps created in these regulations," Hoke said. "Before these regulations were changed, state law gave the Department of Health and local departments of health broad power to prevent the spread of infectious disease." 

The new regulation was meant to clarify a previous regulation, she said. 

If people cannot quarantine in their own homes or live in close quarters with other people or are homeless, the state will provide a place to quarantine. When people are known to be sick, they can isolate at a hospital. 

If someone has an active case of Ebola or tuberculosis, highly infectious diseases, the state could petition a court to isolate someone without their consent, Hoke said. But, she added, this is not a new power and was not born of the COVID-19 epidemic. 

"New York has always had these kinds of provisions, just as other states do," Hoke said. 

Assemblymember Josh Jensen, a Republican who represents towns in western Monroe County, told WHEC in Rochester that the rule doesn’t call for "quarantine camps."  

State Department of Health spokesman Cort Ruddy told us the department has not created or operated "camps" for people with COVID-19. 

"In congregate settings, isolation and quarantine remain important tools to reduce the spread of communicable diseases, including COVID," Ruddy said. 

Our ruling

The claim is that Hochul wants "quarantine camps" and to "imprison people" suspected of having a disease because her administration is pursuing an appeal of a case it lost about isolation and quarantine procedures.

This fact-check considered the evidence for the social media claim, and did not consider the merits of the arguments in the lawsuit. 

Under the disputed rule, the setting for quarantine and isolation can include a temporary housing location chosen by a public health authority, though in most cases people would voluntarily isolate in their homes. 

State law allows for civil commitment for people who refuse isolation orders. The rule in dispute in this lawsuit does not call for civil commitment, but that could be a result if this rule is violated, state lawyers told the court.  

But taking the state’s public health measures and saying they amount to camps and imprisonment takes this rule too far. A Republican state lawmaker told a Rochester reporter that this rule doesn’t call for "quarantine camps." 

The state has not operated camps for people infected with COVID-19, and experts said that the state has no intention of doing so. Experts said the rule challenged by the lawsuit is no different than other quarantine and isolation procedures that have existed for years. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!


Our Sources

Facebook post, Health Freedom Defense Fund, March 1, 2023. 

Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York, Title 10, Sect. 2.13

Email interview, Lawrence O. Gostin, university professor, Georgetown Law School, April 14, 2023. 

Phone interview, Kathleen Hoke, director, Network for Public Health Law-Eastern Region, April 19, 2023. 

Decision and Order, New York State Supreme Court Acting Justice Ronald D. Ploetz, July 8, 2022. 

Emailed statement, Cort Ruddy, director of communications, New York State Department of Health, April 20, 2023. 

Emailed statement, state Sen. George Borrello, April 21, 2023. 

WHEC, "Fact Check Follow-up: Are Hochul and the DOH still trying to create quarantine camps?," July 31, 2022. 

WHEC, "Fact Check: Proposed rules for quarantine camps?," Feb. 9, 2022. 

Times-Union, "Judge declares COVID-19 isolation, quarantine regulations void," July 11, 2022. 

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, appellant brief, Borrello v. Hochul, March 13, 2023. 

FindLaw, New York State Public Health Law 2120


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