Skip to Content

Ensuring Legal and Policy Response to COVID-19 Safeguard the Health, Civil and Human Rights of U.S. Residents

August 27, 2020


Last week the Network, along with a number of leading public health law and policy organizations, released an expansive guide for policymakers as our nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, including more than 170,000 deaths and a severe economic recession. In Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19, 50 top national experts review the U.S. policy response to the crisis. Their research details the widespread failure of the country’s leadership in planning and executing a cohesive, national response, and how the crisis exposed weaknesses in the nation’s health care and public health systems. The authors also offer recommendations on how policymakers can better respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Their proposals include how to strengthen executive leadership for a stronger emergency response; expand access to public health, health care and telehealth; fortify protections for workers; and address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color and vulnerable populations. 

This timely report for policymakers consists of 35 chapters in six different topic areas:

  • Using Government Powers to Control the Pandemic
  • Fulfilling Government Responsibility in a Federal System
  • Financing and Delivering Health Care
  • Assuring Access to Medicine and Medical Supplies
  • Protecting Workers and Families
  • Taking on Disparities and Protecting Equal Rights

The report contains more than 100 recommendations for action in response to COVID-19. These include calls for urgent action now, as well as longer term changes that reflect the way the pandemic has exposed deeper problems in American law and policy. The assessment includes recommendations at federal, state and local levels.

The newly published report is the first of two editions, focusing on immediate needs and recommendations that can be acted on immediately. Continued input is currently being sought from a broad range of stakeholders, with the aim of producing a second report to inform the long-term policy agenda in 2021 and beyond. We hope philanthropic leaders will review the report and provide input about any of the topics covered in the report. The Network can facilitate direct connections to the authors or editors of the report if needed.

Many of the report’s authors will be presenting their findings at the Network’s upcoming 2020 Public Health Law Virtual Summit: COVID-19 Response and Recovery, to be held from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (ET) on September 16 and 17. We encourage you to attend the Summit to learn more about our nation’s legal response to COVID-19 across a wide range of topics.

The report is sponsored by the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Our work is only possible with the support of philanthropic partnerships. Please contact Ann Phi-Wendt, Managing Director at to discuss a COVID-19 project, sponsorship of our Virtual Summit or support our current work.