As Memphians, we should know better than citizens most anywhere else the value of a strong and independent public health service. That is what Dr. Robert Wood Mitchell, a former Confederate Army surgeon, called for in the summer of 1878, when he was appointed president of the Memphis Board of Health. Dr. Mitchell had seen firsthand the toll of yellow fever, and he wanted his city to be prepared and take reasonable precautions. Memphis’ own Molly Crosby, author of “The American Plague,” describes Dr. Mitchell’s request to the City Council for money to provide sanitation and quarantine measures as summer approached and the mosquitoes increased. His request was denied. He pleaded unsuccessfully with his board of health to institute quarantine. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized the duty of our government to act in the interest of the public’s general health and welfare and has upheld the essential right of state governments to declare quarantine in the general public’s interest and enforce quarantine with police powers if necessary. If we honor this constitutional responsibility, we will eliminate unnecessary and premature deaths caused by COVID-19.