Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Social Distancing Law Project Template: A Method for Jurisdictions to Assess Understanding of Relevant Legal Authorities

  • Karen Leeb, Denise Chrysler and Richard A. Goodman


Methods: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials selected 17 state and large local jurisdictions on the basis of their proximity to federal quarantine stations and collaborated with their state health department legal counsel to conduct formulaic self-assessments of social distancing legal authorities, create tables of authority, and test and report on the laws' sufficiency (ie, scope and breadth). Select jurisdictions also held tabletop exercises to test public health and law enforcement officials' understanding and implementation of pertinent laws. This report presents findings for Michigan, which completed the legal assessment and tabletop exercise and made several recommendations for change as a result.

Results: Officials in Michigan concluded that there are sufficient existing laws to support social distancing measures but that a spectrum of questions remained regarding implementation of these legal authorities. Based on the findings of this assessment, Michigan initiated actions to address areas for improvement.

Conclusions: The results of this project highlighted the value of integrally involving the state health department's legal counsel—those most familiar with and who advise on a given state's public health laws—in the periodic identification, assessment, and testing of the state's legal authorities for social distancing and other measures used in response to many public health emergencies.

(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:74-80)


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Address correspondence and reprint requests to Richard Goodman, MD, JD, MPH, Public Health Law Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mailstop D-30, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333 (e-mail:


Hide All
1.Matthews, GW, Abbott, EB, Hoffman, RE. Legal authorities for interventions in public health emergencies. In: Goodman RA, Hoffman RE, Lopez W, et al, eds. The Law in Public Health Practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2007:267.
2.Moulton, AD, Gottfried, RN, Goodman, RA, Murphy, AM, Rawson, RD. What is public health legal preparedness? J Law Med Ethics. 2003;31 (4):672683.
3.Homeland Security Council. National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. The White House Web site. November 1, 2005. Accessed January 4, 2009.
4.Homeland Security Council. National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza: Implementation Plan. The White House Web site. May 2006. Accessed January 4, 2009.
5.Gostin, LO, Sapsin, JW, Teret, SP. The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act: planning for and response to bioterrorism and naturally occurring infectious diseases. JAMA. 2002;288 ((5)):622628.
6.DeMatteis, P, Brown, J. Tabletop exercises: cost effective, verifiable, practical. Trident Group Web site. Accessed December 9, 2008.
7.Dausey, DJ, Buehler, JW, Lurie, N. Designing and conducting tabletop exercises to assess public health preparedness for manmade and naturally occurring biological threats. BMC Public Health. 2007;7:92doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-92.
8.Savoia, E, Biddinger, PD, Fox, P, Levin, DE, Stone, L, Stoto, MA. Impact of tabletop exercise on participants' knowledge of and confidence in legal authorities for infectious disease emergencies. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2009;3 (2):104110.
9.Ransom, MM, Lopez, W, Goodman, RA, Moulton, AD. The national action agenda for public health legal preparedness. J Law Med Ethics. 2008;36 (1 suppl 1):167.
10.House Bill 4900, 95th Leg (Mich 2009). Accessed May 9, 2009.
11.Social distancing law project template. CDC Public Health Law Program Web site. Accessed January 4, 2009.
12.Michigan Department of Community Health All Hazards Response Plan Version 3.0, signed by Director Janet Olszewski on April 4, 2007. [This plan is not publicly available].
13.Michigan Pandemic Influenza Community Health Plan. Michigan Department of Community Health Web site. Accessed April 27, 2009.
14.Strategic National Stockpile information page. CDC Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER) Web site. Accessed May 27, 2009.
15.Michigan Constitution of 1963. Art. VIII, § § 5, 6.
16.National Pride at Work, Inc v Governor, 274 Mich App. 147 (2007), and cases cited therein.
17.Michigan social distancing law project after action report. CDC Public Health Law Program Web site. Accessed June 9, 2009.
18.Hodge, JG Jr. The legal landscape for school closures in response to pandemic flu or other public health threats. Biosecur Bioterror. 2009;7 (1):4550doi: 10.1089/bsp.2009.0006.
19.Shaw, FE, McKie, KL, Liveoak, CA, Goodman, RAState Public Health Counsel Review Team. Variation in quarantine powers among the 10 most populous US states in 2004. Am J Public Health. 2007;97 (suppl 1):S38S43.
20.HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan Part 2: public health guidance on pandemic influenza for state and local partners. US Department of Health and Human Services Web site. Accessed June 10, 2009.
21.Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. US Department of Homeland Security Web site. Accessed May 9, 2009.
22.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement informational letter. Accessed June 10, 2009.
23.Virginia social distancing law project. Virginia Department of Health Web site. Accessed May 26, 2009.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The Social Distancing Law Project Template: A Method for Jurisdictions to Assess Understanding of Relevant Legal Authorities

  • Karen Leeb, Denise Chrysler and Richard A. Goodman


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.