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. The Network’s real-time resources, guidance, and information are available to assist the public health community. Learn more and get assistance.
Law and Policy Perspectives
Combatting COVID-19 through Law and Policy: Social Distancing Only Works if People Can Stay at Home
As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to grow, jurisdictions are taking more expansive steps to ensure that the ability of people to practice social distancing isn’t compromised by housing insecurity. These measures include placing a moratorium on evictions, issuing temporary suspension on power shutoffs so people can be comfortable in their homes, and suspension of water service shutoffs for those facing financial difficulties.
COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts Federal Agencies to Reduce Restrictions on Medications for Opioid Use Disorder
The medications methadone and buprenorphine are highly effective in the treatment of opioid use disorder, dramatically reducing the risk of relapse and withdrawal and decreasing the risk of death by as much as 50 percent. Unfortunately, legal barriers make it difficult to access these lifesaving medications-, but in light of the ongoing public health emergency associated with COVID-19, the federal government has recently taken a number of steps that will help ease access.
Supporting Mental Health in the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak occurring in the United States and in many other countries has profound implications for mental health. Just as public health is leading the way to protect physical health in the context of COVID-19, public health can take steps to promote mental health and community resilience. While public health has emergency isolation, quarantine, and social distancing powers, taking small steps where consistent with good public health practice can support mental well-being.
Emergency Legal Preparedness: COVID-19
This Primer outlines the latest legal, policy and practical guidance related to the COVID-19 outbreak and public health emergency responses, and includes a brief “epi-snapshot” of COVID-19, international legal response efforts, U.S. legal preparedness and response (including emergency declarations) and additional resources.
U.S. Social Distancing Measures for COVID-19
Various types of social distancing measures are being implemented by governments at all levels across the U.S. in response to COVID-19, including quarantine, isolation, closures, school dismissals, work-place separations, lockdowns, shelter in place and curfews. This fact sheet covers an array of social distancing measures, authorized through routine and emergency powers, which are designed to reduce social interactions and slow the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
COVID-19 Emergency Legal Preparedness FAQ
This FAQ includes answers to questions that the Network has received and addressed in real-time concerning COVID-19 emergency legal preparedness and response in four key categories: emergency declarations and public health powers, social distancing powers, liability risks and protections, and emerging issues.
COVID-19 and Health Data Privacy FAQ
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, questions have arisen regarding health data and privacy, specifically with regard to HIPAA requirements and waivers. This FAQ addresses questions of HIPAA compliance and requirements in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guidance for Health Care Systems & Providers: Making Decisions When There Are Limited Resources for COVID-19 Patients
What do hospitals and providers do when there are insufficient resources to provide care for all? Where a pandemic results in a high number of patients suffering from life-threatening respiratory failure, who will receive one of a limited supply of respirators? What is fair? Who decides? What is legally permissible? Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) planning and guidance can help providers address these and other critical issues that arise when health care systems are in crisis operations.
Release of Health Department COVID-19 Case Information to News Media
Can a HIPAA covered health department release COVID-19 county level case information (number of COVID-19 cases by county) to the press to avert a serious threat to public health or safety? This guidance outlines the considerations that should be taken and the questions a health department will want to consider as it evaluates whether a proposed disclosure to the media complies with the law.
Disclosure of Individuals’ COVID-19 Status to Emergency Responders
Emergency responders (EMS) request that public health officials provide the name and residential address/location of each positive COVID-19 case in their area in order to protect the health of EMS personnel. What should a health department consider with regard to HIPAA requirements as it decides whether to comply with such a request?
COVID-19: Crisis Standards of Care—Guidance for Health Care Systems and Providers
TODAY: March 26 | 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST
Given the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing concern about the potential inability of health care personnel, equipment and resources to keep pace with the need for live-saving treatment. Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) planning and guidance can help providers address the critical issues that arise when health care systems are in crisis operations. Attend this webinar for an examination of the decisions health care workers must make to address scarce resource allocation, ethical decision-making, legal issues and provider liability.
COVID-19: Data Sharing for Public Health Surveillance, Investigation and Intervention
April 2 | 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, questions about data sharing under a national emergency have surfaced. Is HIPAA still fully in effect during this public health emergency? How does HIPAA apply to public health departments? What COVID-19 information may public health share with the media, emergency responders, law enforcement and others? Attend this webinar to learn about the various federal and state laws, including HIPAA, that impact public health’s ability to share COVID-19 information.
Webinar Recording: COVID-19 Real-Time Legal Responses—Local Governments on the Frontlines
This webinar covered the legal and policy challenges faced by counties, cities, and other localities, as well as their departments of health and emergency management, across an array of public health powers and issues in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thoughts on Adaptive Leadership during the COVID-19 Outbreak
Gene Matthews, Director of the Network’s Southeastern Region Office, co-authored this article outlining how, by focusing on a few elements of leadership practice, public health leaders, particularly those in state and local health agencies, may find ways to prioritize actions and thereby better serve their communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Responding to COVID-19: How to Navigate a Public Health Emergency Legally and Ethically
Sarah Wetter, Staff Attorney at the Network’s Western Region Office, co-authored this article examining how, when health systems become stretched beyond capacity, scarce health goods and services can be ethnically allocated, marginalized populations can be insured of access to the care they need, and public health and civil liberties can be ethically and legally balanced.
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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.