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Proposed Texas Legislation Broadens Health Officials Power To Quarantine

Senate Bill 538 would give sweeping authority to the governor and health officials in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

Senator Charles Schwertner introduces the legislation SB 538, to the media. He is joined by Senators Lois Kolkhorst, Charles Perry, Jose Rodriguez, Van Taylor, Carlos Uresti, and others. Screengrab from the Texas Senate Legislature website. 


State Sen. Charles Schwertner filed Senate Bill 538 Wednesday. This legislation would allow the governor to declare a state of infectious disease emergency and grant the Texas health commissioner the ability to force high-risk people into quarantine.

Schwertner says the bill would address several problems brought to light when Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas last year.

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“Lines of authority were probably the most obvious immediately,” said Schwertner, who is also a doctor. “The lack of personal protective equipment, the lack of medical transportation of the waste, storage of medical waste, testing of potential animals that have been exposed.”

Schwertner’s bill is based on recommendations made by the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.

Thomas Duncan, a visitor from Liberia, died of Ebola in Dallas on October 8. Two hospital workers who cared for him were also infected but recovered.

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