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Public Health Law News Round-Up – July 2020

July 30, 2020


Public health law and policy stories that made headlines recently include mask requirements in schools, SNAP enrollment amidst COVID-19, reparations as a means to address health disparities for Black communities, a Supreme Court Ruling on the ACA’s contraceptive care mandate, U.S. withdrawal from W.H.O., evictions and vulnerable populations, and more.

Guidance for masks in schools varies widely across US statesAssociated Press, July 20

School districts that plan to reopen classrooms in the fall are wrestling with whether to require teachers and students to wear face masks — an issue that has divided urban and rural schools and yielded widely varying guidance. Many states are calling for teachers to wear masks, and some will require masks for students. Many other states are leaving the decision to local officials.

Amid a Deadly Virus and Crippled Economy, One Form of Aid Has Proved Reliable: Food StampsNew York Times, July 19

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports a wide range of Americans, making it the “closest thing the U.S. has to a guaranteed income.” More than six million people enrolled in food stamps in the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, leading the Trump administration to ease administrative rules during the pandemic.

In historic move, North Carolina city approves reparations for Black residentsUSA Today, July 15

The Asheville City Council has voted unanimously to provide reparations for Black residents after apologizing for the city’s historic role in slavery and discrimination. The resolution seeks to address health disparities and improve access to education, housing and career opportunities for Black residents – determinants that play a significant role in maintaining and promoting public health.

Labeling Racism a Health Crisis Sparks Calls for AccountabilityBloomberg Law, July 16

“While far from a cure-all, the new public declarations are notable for moving the discussion of racism ‘from an interpersonal level to talking about it at an institutional, or structural, level in a way that hasn’t really been done before,’ said Dawn Hunter, southeastern region deputy director of the Network.”

Supreme Court says employers may opt out of Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate over religious, moral objectionsWashington Post, July 8

The Supreme Court ruled on July 8 that employers and universities who object to providing contraceptive care because of religious or moral concerns can opt out of the Affordable Care Act requirement to do so.

Trump Administration Signals Formal Withdrawal From W.H.O.New York Times, July 7

“The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization, a move that would cut off one of the largest sources of funding from the premier global health organization in the middle of a pandemic.”

Sleeping Outside in a Pandemic: Vulnerable Renters Face EvictionsNew York Times, July 4

“Immigrant and renter advocates in cities across the country say they are being inundated with complaints about landlords pressuring tenants to pay rent money. They say landlords use harassment, illegal fees for late payments or repairs or simply change the locks as a way to force out vulnerable renters.”

Oklahoma voters narrowly approve Medicaid expansionAssociated Press, July 1

One June 30, Oklahoma voters narrowly decided to amend the state’s constitution to expand Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income residents. Those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $17,200 for an individual and $35,500 for a family of four – will be eligible for Medicaid health insurance.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document do not constitute legal advice or legal representation. 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 represent the views of (and should not be attributed to) RWJF.