Skip to Content
Emergency Legal Preparedness and ResponseCOVID-19

COVID-19: Snapshot of Law and Policy in the News

March 11, 2020


Public health law and policy stories related to the COVID-19 outbreak that made headlines recently include patient privacy and HIPAA in light of increased health data sharing; paid sick leave; mandatory work from home policies; tribal concerns about a lack of resources to adequately address the outbreak; and the potential for health care worker shortages due to worker quarantine policies.

Coronavirus Brings a New Legislative Push for Paid Sick Leave – New York Times, March 10

In response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, Democratic legislators are looking to pass an expanded version of a sick leave bill that has been stalled in Congress since 2004. It would add 14 days of immediately accessible paid sick leave in the case of a public health emergency.  Public health experts are urging Americans to stay home if they’re sick, but many workers – including those in the service industry – cannot follow the advice without losing a paycheck. The United States is one of the only rich countries not requiring employers to give their workers paid time off when they’re sick.

The coronavirus: New York state poised to amend public health law as count climbs – Buffalo Business First, March 9

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, New York State is considering an amendment to its public health law that would require business owners and school administrators to cooperate with state and local officials in the investigation of suspected coronavirus cases. It would also clarify the governor’s authority when it comes to funding appropriations and emergency declarations.

NASA center in California issues mandatory work-from-home policy after employee tests positive for COVID-19 – The Verge, March 9

One of NASA’s research centers in California has issued a mandatory telework policy after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. A NASA administrator said it was an exercise to test NASA’s capabilities, resources, and preparedness for large-scale teleworking should the need arise.

Scarcity of Health Workers A New Concern As Self-Quarantining Spreads With Virus – NPR, March 9

The number of health care workers ordered to self-quarantine because of potential exposure to an infected patients is rising at a rapid pace. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow, a continued quarantine response could quickly leave the health care system short-staffed and overwhelmed prompting debate in the health care community about standards that should be used for quarantining.

United Airlines adjusting policies for passengers amid COVID-19 outbreak – NBC News, March 7

United Airlines announced changes to its policies and practices in response to the COVID-19 outbreak including offering some passengers the option to reschedule flights for free, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of its planes, and requiring flight attendants to wear gloves at all times.

We are not ready for this’: Native American tribes struggle to deal with coronavirus – The Salt Lake Tribune, March 5

There is growing concern that the 12 tribal epidemiology centers in the U.S. do not have the capacity to effectively monitor incidences of COVID-19 in tribal communities since tribal health departments and state health departments are not linked and therefore do not share data. There is also concern that tribes do not have the medical staff needed to deal with a communicable disease outbreaks of the magnitude possible with COVID-19.

Public Health vs. Patient Privacy – How Coronavirus Is Putting HIPAA to the Test – The National Law Review, March 4

Blog author Alaap B. Shah outlines why it is imperative that HIPAA covered entities and their business associates are aware of their privacy and security responsibilities in the midst of the COVID-19 public health emergency and notes the Office for Civil Rights’ bulletin that assists entities in determining ways patient information could be permissibly shared in compliance with HIPAA in the event of an outbreak of infectious disease or other emergency situations.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Issues New Policy to Help Expedite Availability of Diagnostics – FDA, February 29

The FDA has issued a new policy that allows research centers across the country to use new technologies that have yet to be approved for emergency use in order to dramatically increase the number of tests healthcare facilities can perform. The new policy allows laboratories to begin to use validated COVID-19 diagnostics before the FDA has completed review of the labs’ Emergency Use Authorization request.

The News Roundup is a curated collection of stories containing relevant public health law and policy information. The Network does not endorse the sources of these stories or guarantee the accuracy of their content.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.

Support for the Network is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, RWJF.