Thursday, August 27, 2020
Pandemic Policymaking: Assessing Responses to COVID-19
As the nation continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Network has joined with our public health law partners to produce an expansive report that includes critical analyses and recommendations from national experts convened to assess the U.S. policy response to the crisis to date. Many of these experts will present their findings at this Virtual Summit, covering some of the most urgent issues arising from the pandemic including health care and vaccine access, racial health justice, voter health and safety, protections for essential workers, and food insecurity. Access the report, view the full two-day schedule and register here.
Law and Policy Insights:
Addressing Native American Food Insecurity during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. Additionally, isolation due to social distancing, along with the economic hardship, puts seniors at increased risk for food insecurity. Even before the pandemic, one in seven Native American seniors faced the threat of hunger. To address this increased risk to tribal elders during the pandemic, the federal government has leveraged the Older Americans Act to provide support.
Structural Racism May Negatively Impact COVID-19 Vaccination Rates among Black Americans
Much of the Black community has retained a well-founded distrust of the medical industry that dates back to slavery, which raises concern about whether Black people will elect to get the coronavirus vaccine once one is developed. There are steps, however, that medical professionals can take to build trust with the Black community and promote vaccination.
Public Health Decision-making in the COVID-19 Era: Act, but be Cautious
Public health officials are granted considerable discretion and broad authority to protect the public against communicable disease and environmental health threats. In the current COVID-19 environment however, public health officials have been attacked and threatened for issuing or enforcing protections. While health officers cannot ignore the potential threats to their personal safety, some caution in enforcement may be called for—caution, but not acquiescence.
Report: Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19
This expansive report details how the current pandemic exposed weaknesses in the nation’s emergency preparedness, health care and public health systems, and includes recommendations on how policymakers at the local, state and federal levels can better respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Proposed actions include strengthening executive leadership for a stronger emergency response; expanding access to public health, health care and telehealth; fortifying protections for workers; and addressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color and vulnerable populations.
Guidance: Issuing a COVID-19 Press Release That Identifies a Specific Location
Can a health department issue a press release indicating that individuals who attended a party on a specific date at a specific address may have been exposed to COVID-19? In cases where there are no legal barriers, this becomes a policy question within the health department’s discretion. This guidance provides an executive decision-making framework health departments can employee when weighing privacy against the need to protect the public’s health.
Guidance: Physician Liability for COVID-19 Testing
COVID-19 has raised numerous liability questions. In Michigan, in response to Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Emergency Declaration to increase COVID-19 testing, the question arose as to whether testing for COVID-19 established a physician-patient duty to patients for whom a physician orders or conducts a test and whether it was legally permissible to order these tests when no assessment is made on the tested patients. This guidance examines Michigan law with regard to physician duty and liability.
Emergency Legal Response: COVID-19
This Primer provides a chronological look back and ahead to the types of core legal and policy issues that dominate COVID-19 public health emergency responses in the U.S., including public health emergency declarations and powers, and constitutional claims and other emerging litigation. The Primer also provides access to additional resources.
Broadband Access and Public Health: Legal and Policy Opportunities for Achieving Equitable Access
September 3 | 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. ET
The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for internet connectedness throughout the United States. However, the digital divide limits opportunities for equitable participation in telehealth programs, educational opportunities, and job opportunities for households that lack access to affordable broadband services. Attend this webinar for an overview of the public health disparities resulting from the digital divide; the importance of broadband in Indian Country; federal policies and opportunities to increase access to telehealth services and eliminate the rural digital divide; and an analysis of municipal efforts to eliminate disparities in broadband access.
IZ Gateway Project Legal Agreements: Facilitating Secure Data Sharing for Jurisdictions’ Immunization Information Systems
September 9 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. ET
Join us to learn how the IZ Gateway Project Portfolio will support your jurisdiction’s role in mass vaccination for COVID-19. We will examine how the IZ Gateway Project facilitates secure data sharing for immunization information systems in compliance with federal and state law. This webinar will provide an in-depth look at the legal relationships between jurisdictions, the IZ Gateway Project and reporting/querying provider organizations, and the associated trust agreements.
Legal Interventions to Address US Reductions in Life Expectancy
The Network’s national director Donna Levin and James Hodge, director of the Western Region Office, co-authored this JAMA article with Georgetown University professor Lawrence Gostin addressing the alarming downward trend in life expectancy in the United States. They note that among many potential solutions, the “legal determinants of health” or how law can address underlying causes of premature mortality, merit examination and consideration. They assert that public health laws are underutilized and provide evidence of how cost-effective evidence-based laws can safeguard the public’s health, reduce disparities, and extend life expectancy across socio-economic groups, especially in disproportionately affected regions of the US.
Outcome of Coronavirus Disease 2019 on School Vaccination Policies for 2020-2021
Leila Barraza, consultant with the Network’s Western Region Office, is among the authors of this article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Health Forum examining changes in vaccination policies for the 2020-2021 school year, along with proactive options communities can take to ensure children remain up to date on vaccinations in light of the decline in vaccination rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AHLA Podcast: Racial Disparities in Health Care
In this American Health Law Association (AHLA) podcast, Dawn Hunter, deputy director of the Network’s Southeastern Region Office, along with speakers from the AHLA and the CDC, discuss the impact of racial disparities in health care, both pre- and post-COVID. They review some of the data on racial disparities in access to and quality of care, and discuss how data could be used to address these issues. They conclude with an examination of what health lawyers can do to aid in advancing health equity.
Your interest in the work of the Network is important. Together, we can advance law as a tool to improve public health. Please forward the Network Report and encourage others to join the Network!
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 does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.