President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Friday, September 17, which will force people who test positive for measles to quarantine under Communicable Disease Center guidelines.
“Based upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Surgeon General… [the list of Quarantinable Communicable Diseases] shall be further amended by adding “Measles” to the existing list after “infectious Tuberculosis,” wrote Biden in his executive order.
A week after four Afghans who entered the country tested positive for measles, the Biden administration decided to add the disease to the list of those forcing infected people to quarantine, which according to the CDC website, is four days.
A White House spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that, “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.”
According to CNN, the CDC stated, “The executive order adds measles to the list of diseases that (Department of Health and Human Services) and CDC have the authority to issue federal quarantine orders for, requiring individuals who have been diagnosed with or exposed to measles to self-isolate to protect public health.”
As a result of the four positive cases, flights of Afghan evacuees were temporarily canceled. The federal government began a measles vaccination operation among Afghans both on U.S. soil and at the airports where the refugees are coming from; Germany and Qatar.
Biden’s executive order – which empowers federal authorities to require infected persons to quarantine – will not only impact Afghan refugees but will be extended to all who enter the country and are found to have measles.
The CDC says measles is a highly contagious virus that can be spread by coughing or sneezing. People can become infected with measles if they breathe contaminated air or touch a contaminated surface and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
In 2000, the United States claimed to have eliminated measles, but there have been sporadic outbreaks presumably due to the virus re-entering with travelers.
According to the CDC, measles outbreaks occur among U.S. communities that have not been vaccinated against the virus.
In 2019, there was a ‘record’ 1282 measles cases in the United States, a figure not seen since 1992. Biden’s move is part of his efforts to eradicate vaccination hesitancy among Americans.