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    Tennessee Health Quarantine Statutes

    June 10, 2023
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    For those readers, who live in Tennessee, below are statutes and references for Tennessee Health Quarantines laws.

    This was compiled for CDMedia by Kate Heiser, CHD’s Legal Fellow who is also an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut. 


    • The statutes governing quarantine in Tennessee are spread out in a disorderly fashion among several chapters in Title 68 of the Tennessee Code.  Chapter 1—Department of Health—contains the main quarantine provisions in Part 2.  §§ 68-1-201 to -204.  
    • Chapter 5—Prevention of Diseases—contains provisions governing communicable disease notice/notifications and penalties for quarantine violation in Part 1.  §§ 68-5-101 to -104; 68-5-108.  County health officers are authorized to order quarantine under § 68-2-609(1). 
    • This chapter also contains a provision for notice and opportunity for a hearing upon issuance of orders by a county health officer, with exceptions for emergencies, but it does not expressly state that it applies to quarantine and isolation orders, and frankly does not seem to apply even implicitly.  § 68-2-608.  It applies to the county health director’s authority to issue orders for cessation or abatement of existing or threatened activities and conditions “that may violate the laws, regulations, resolutions, ordinances, permits or licenses that are within the [health officer’s] enforcement responsibility.”  § 68-2-608(a)(1).  This is the only provision I have been able to find that contains any language resembling due process protection.
    • TEMA:  The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is headed by a director who reports directly to the governor during an emergency.  § 58-2-104.  


    • An emergency is defined broadly as an occurrence or threat of occurrence that results in or could result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to/loss of property.  It can be natural (including disease outbreaks and epidemics), technological or manmade.   § 58-2-107(7).
    • Quarantine is defined as “the limitation of a person's freedom of movement, isolation of a person, or preventing or restricting access to premises upon which the person or the cause or source of a disease may be found, for a period of time as may be necessary to confirm or establish a diagnosis, to determine the cause or source of a disease, or to prevent the spread of a disease.”  § 68-1-201(c).  This definition appears to have been added in 2021. (Link is to Casetext; Justia does not have the most current version.). 


    • The Commissioner of the Department of Health has the authority to declare a quarantine when, in his judgment, the public welfare requires it.   Tenn. Code § 68-1-201(a)(1).  He may further prescribe any rules or regulations “as may be deemed proper” to prevent “introduction of yellow fever, cholera, and other epidemic diseases into the state.”  § 68-1-201(a)(2).  The commissioner’s rules and regulations must, in his judgment, prevent the spread of disease “with the least inconvenience to commerce and travel.” § 68-1-201(b).  Local authority to carry out the department of health’s rules and regulations is found in § 68-5-103.  

    Quarantine Stations

    • “Quarantine stations” may be set up at “suitable localities” and temporary buildings may be erected “for disinfection of passengers, baggage, cargo and other matter believed to convey the contagious principle of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox and other epidemic diseases, and may enforce the transshipment of passengers as the commissioner may deem necessary.”  § 68-1-202.  


    • The head of a household, or any other person in the household who has knowledge of the facts, has an affirmative duty to notify the health authorities immediately when there is a case of communicable disease (with the exception of venereal diseases).  § 68-5-101.  Physicians have a similar duty.  § 68-5-102.  

    Violations and Penalties

    • Willful disregard or evasion of quarantine or other related regulations is a Class B misdemeanor.  § 68-1-203.  Escape from isolation or quarantine likewise is a Class B misdemeanor.  § 68-5-104.    A misdemeanor sentence is determinate (i.e., having a fixed limit).  § 40-35-111(e)(2).  Imprisonment and fines for a Class B misdemeanor are not more than six months and/or $500.  § 40-35-111(e)(2).
    • Any person who has reason to believe that he “is afflicted with any contagious disease” and who voluntarily enters or travels upon any public highway, street, steamboat, train car, other public conveyance, or any place where people assemble, commits a Class C misdemeanor.  Anyone who knowingly aids such person also commits a Class C misdemeanor.  § 68-5-108.  

    Other Issues

    • While not related to quarantine, Tennessee has a statute that makes vaccination refusal a Class C misdemeanor.  § 68-5-106.  A person who refuses to be vaccinated or prevents someone under his “care and control from being vaccinated on application being made by the health officer or board of health or by a physician employed by the health officer or board of health for that purpose, unless in the written opinion of another physician it would not be prudent on account of sickness, commits a Class C misdemeanor.”   Additionally, a physician who fraudulently gives a certificate of sickness or of vaccination to prevent vaccination commits a Class C misdemeanor.  The penalty for a Class C misdemeanor is imprisonment for no more than thirty days and a maximum $50 fine.  § 40-35-111(e)(3).  
    • Religious beliefs:  In the absence of an epidemic or immediate threat of an epidemic, any person who shall file with the county board of health a signed, written statement that a specific regulation pertaining to personal medical treatment conflicts with the person's religious tenets and practices, affirmed under penalty of perjury, shall be exempted from the regulation.  § 68-2-603.  

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    Christine Dolan

    Christine Dolan is a seasoned Investigative Journalist, television producer, author, and photographer. She is Co-Founder of American Conversations whose format focuses on in-depth analysis of critical issues about “the story behind the headlines.”
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