Local Authority

Attorney General Opinion on COVID-19 Rules

There are many questions about quarantine laws and local authority.

The laws about who has authority to quarantine and close businesses because of a public health crisis can be confusing since laws are not the same from state to state. For Tennessee, the State Health Department is authorized to take these actions and authorizes its county health officer to take these actions for each county. The local governments cannot make these decisions.

Blount County, the cities of Maryville, Alcoa, Friendsville, Townsend, and towns of Louisville and Rockford can encourage our citizens to stay home, away from crowds, and follow the guidelines of the CDC. We are all responsible to take these actions as citizens, neighbors and friends.

We will be ready to support and enforce any decisions made by our local health authorities and continue to provide the essential services our citizens need throughout this situation.

The following are specific Tennessee Code Annotated locations and their summaries:

Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-201; Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-204

The commissioner of health, appointed by the governor, has the power to declare quarantine whenever he or she determines the welfare of the public requires it. The commissioner has the authority to prescribe rules and regulations deemed proper for the prevention of epidemic diseases in the state. In the event of an emergency or disaster that involves the outbreaks of disease that present a danger of an epidemic, the commissioner shall make appropriate recommendations to the governor for actions under this title and title 58, chapter 2, to allocate all available heath care resources in the affected areas for immediate and long-term health care needs of the affected populations.

Local Authority - Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-2-609

The county health officer is empowered to order the quarantine of any place or person if the county health officer finds that such control is necessary to protect the public health from an epidemic.

State & Local Authority - Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-9-201 et. seq.

The commissioner and all state, district, county or municipal health officers are authorized, directed and empowered to implement control measures that are reasonable and necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of tuberculosis in this state.

Penalties - Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-203

Any person who willfully disregards or evades quarantine, or violates any rule or regulation made in attempting to prevent the spread of any epidemic disease, commits a Class B misdemeanor.