Cheryl: New cases of coronavirus popping up in the United States, many who have come in contact with the infected are in quarantine, but this is raising legal questions, what kind of power does the government on a federal or a state level have?
Attorney and founder of GenCo Legal Bryan Rotella is here. Bryan, good morning.
Bryan Rotella: Good morning Cheryl.
Cheryl: There's been a lot of talk about the 2010 Public Health Service Act. It gives a lot of power to the government to authorize different levels of quarantine, but can the government overstep and how much power do they have?
Bryan Rotella: Great question, Cheryl and it's a real question right now. The bottom line is the government has a lot of power. Especially the federal government under what you just said, the Public Health Service Act. Specifically, the government can do what are called mandatory quarantines. That's what we saw the president just recently in the last couple of weeks do with the epicenter of the coronavirus in China. Folks coming from there, mandatory quarantine.
Also, though we can have a self monitored quarantine. That's what we're seeing from what are called high risk countries like Iran and possibly Italy. When folks are coming in, for lack of a better analogy, it's kind of like being sent home from school where they have to stay home for 14 days, check and see if they have a fever before they can be released back out into the public.
Cheryl: Well Bryan the reason we're asking here is because a woman in California has been out of work for six weeks and she's now seeking legal advice. It's one thing to quarantine somebody, it's another thing to isolate somebody if they do indeed test positive for the virus, but at what point do legal rights of Americans actually come under fire?
Bryan Rotella: No, that's a good question, Cheryl and again, this is an area where it's actually in the constitution. This authority comes out of the Commerce Clause and that law from 2010. What we're looking at is a highly communicable disease, which is what coronavirus obviously is what we're talking about is and does it cause severe acute respiratory syndrome? Which it does.
The country has a clear and present danger to make sure that these types of individuals are not out in the public engaging other folks. So yes, there's a balancing act, but I'm going to tell you, you're going to see more than six weeks with some individuals, in my opinion, in the future and there's going to be challenges lost.
Cheryl: We've had doctors talk about that. We haven't seen things like this... Well, the 1918 Spanish Flu, you had World War I. I mean, there are examples in recent modern American history where the government has had to take extreme steps, but it's also infringing on business. When you stop travel from other countries, I mean, how far can they go and at what right does a business, a major American corporation say look enough is enough?
Bryan Rotella: Well, I can tell you in representing businesses every day, this is a question I'm now getting six times a day, Cheryl, and for our friendly HR directors who are out in the audience, you know what everyone's asking? "Well these folks that are coming from these countries, what do you do about PTO time? What if they have used all of their PTO time? Should the company pay for it? What if they've shown no symptoms?" To be candid with you, I'm going to say something a lawyer doesn't usually say, there's not a good legal answer yet because it's so new.
Cheryl: Wow, okay. I want to switch gears really quick and ask you about now former presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg. Now that he has left, he has got a billion dollar war chest. Now, there's a lot of talk about what he can do with that money because of campaign finance laws. It seems the likely plan is he forms a Super PAC, but is he in illegal muddied water as he tries to support one candidate, which he's done as he's endorsed Joe Biden?
Bryan Rotella: Well, Cheryl, under laws you mentioned, an individual can only give $2,500, well Bloomberg has a billion dollars, but as you mentioned, he can. Legally, he can convert his dollars into a Super PAC and then those folks that have been working on the Bloomberg campaign can voluntarily choose to join that Super PAC.
They made a little fun yesterday of the president, I'm sure you probably saw it. Where they basically analogized it to Star Wars and that Bloomberg's Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, "Strike me down and I'll be stronger than ever." I don't know that that's going to ultimately be the impact here, but legally, yes, those dollars can go into a PAC.
Cheryl: Yeah, it's like likely. Bryan, thank you very much for being here. It was great to have you, sir.
Thank you, Cheryl