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Meeting the Unprecedented Law and Policy Challenges of COVID-19

June 30, 2020


Public health agencies, health care workers, emergency managers, and policymakers are grappling with core legal preparedness and response efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Communities are reeling from COVID-19 on so many levels—from needing to increase or reallocate health care resources, to protecting the safety of front line and essential workers, to addressing the health and economic structural inequities the pandemic has laid bare. Never has there been such an urgent need for government, business, health care and other sectors to ensure their laws and policies protect the health of our communities.  

An Overwhelming Need for Guidance and Support

Those who are working to protect the health of their communities are faced with countless legal and policy challenges and limited expertise and capacity in which to make effective decisions. As a resource for government and health agencies, policymakers, and advocacy organizations the Network is playing a critical and vital role in the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are:

  • Assisting local, county and state health agencies with a wide range of questions about public health declarations, isolation and quarantine, school and business closures, crisis standards of care, children’s access to food, disease reporting, data sharing and privacy, telehealth and travel restrictions.  
  • Providing the National Governors Association (NGA) with information and resources related to legal issues, including federal actions, social distancing measures, shelter in place orders and access to testing equipment and other health care supplies.
  •  Conducting weekly webinars on critical topics including public health authority, crisis standards of care, health information privacy, housing and homelessness, food insecurity and mental health. Many of our webinars have drawn between 700 and 1,000 state and local public health officials as well as numerous other government, health care, and non-profit partners.
  • Producing and disseminating essential resources on emergency declarations, the Stimulus Relief Act, emergency food security measures, ethical decision making, and harm reduction in the time of a pandemic, to list a few. Visit to access our full collection of resources

Some of the reporting we’ve helped inform in the past three months:

As COVID-19 disproportionately affects African American, immigrant and low-income communities, we have mobilized around health disparities to identify legal interventions across a wide range of systemic issues, including employment, housing, transportation, food, access to care and civic engagement. Health disparities will be central to projects underway with two key partners.

We are working with the Voting Rights Lab to raise awareness among policymakers, public health agencies and the broader public about ways to protect the health and safety of voters in this election year. We are also working with the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University and some of the country’s leading experts to produce two reports assessing the legal implementation and effectiveness of response measures, and the economic, social and political fallout that has followed.

In addition to the ongoing pandemic response, we are also focusing on recovery and mitigation, and implications for a strained public health system. In September we will be holding a COVID-19 and Public Health Law Virtual Summit to share some of the pioneering work that has been carried out to address the pandemic.

All of our work is made possible by 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.