Sorry if this is the wrong StackExchange, but I figured it was more appropriate here than on Writing. I'm writing a story with a sequence where city authorities decide to block travel out of the city to contain an epidemic. The POV character knows that the epidemic isn't what it seems and that they need to evacuate the city (she has evidence), and has to convince them to lift the quarantine.

Question is: who would be in charge of these decisions? The sheriff? The mayor? Would the character have to convince a sort of council?

If it varies by country, I prefer a US answer; if it varies by city, any answer that won't make me sound ignorant is fine.

  • it's unrealistic for a city or county to have the resources to enforce a quarantine. other books and films always use federal agents, or the national guard (state-level).
    – dandavis
    Feb 11, 2020 at 18:15
  • Note that this question might be appropriate on World Building as well.
    – user29681
    Feb 11, 2020 at 23:50
  • @Chipster Probably not World Building. It's a plot issue rather than building a world.
    – puppetsock
    Feb 12, 2020 at 22:21

1 Answer 1


As far as individual cases go, in the US it is basically one or more "medical reviewer(s)" appointed by the HHS/CDC:

Medical reviewer means a physician, nurse practitioner, or similar medical professional qualified in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases who is appointed by the Secretary or Director to conduct medical reviews under this part and may include an HHS or CDC employee, provided that the employee differs from the CDC official who issued the Federal order for quarantine, isolation, or conditional release.

As far as lifting the whole quarantine, it would be basically the CDC and/or HHS leadership, which can also delegate the decision. See the recent CDC decision to quarantine 195 American passengers arriving from China, for example. (This is temporally related to, but not the same decision as Trump's order to not admit foreigners travelling from China.) Other countries probably have similar authorities as the CDC. Russia also quarantined 140 of their own citizens travelling from China. The news in English doesn't bother with details as to whom has the authority to makes such decisions in Russia...

  • So it's medical officials rather than law enforcement? I find that really surprising, but thanks for your answer.
    – Yujiri
    Feb 11, 2020 at 1:20

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