Public Health

New York's Doomsday Manual

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The New York Times reports on an official new state manual released this month "to serve as a guide for judges and lawyers who could face grim questions in another terrorist attack, a major radiological or chemical contamination or a widespread epidemic." How will the Empire State deal with doomsday? Here are a few sobering details:

Quarantines. The closing of businesses. Mass evacuations. Warrantless searches of homes. The slaughter of infected animals and the seizing of property. When laws can be suspended and whether infectious people can be isolated against their will or subjected to mandatory treatment. It is all there, in dry legalese, in the manual, published by the state court system and the state bar association.

The most startling legal realities are handled with lawyerly understatement. It notes that the government has broad power to declare a state of emergency. "Once having done so," it continues, "local authorities may establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies and, under certain circumstances, suspend local ordinances."…

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the 88-page book reminded her of the CliffsNotes pamphlets that have helped generations of 11th graders get through Macbeth. "Needless to say, this makes me a little nervous," she said, adding that the legal issues the book raised were "nuanced, thorny and difficult, and hard to capture in CliffsNotes."

Download New York's Cliffsnotes for armageddon right here.