The Network kicks off a new feature for the Public Health Law Blog with our News Roundup: we pick the month’s top public health law and policy stories as determined by our attorneys, our partners, and our social media communities, and summarize them for readers.
A number of major public health issues were in the news in April ― from paid family leave and elevated concerns about the Zika virus, to the Flint water crisis and a ban on chewing tobacco at sports venues ― federal, state and local law and policy efforts were in the headlines. A few of the more notable stories:
CDC confirms Zika virus causes microcephaly, other birth defects – Washington Post
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on April 13 that its scientists concluded Zika Virus causes microcephaly and other severe brain defects in newborns. The announcement affirmed the CDC’s guidance to pregnant women and others to take steps to avoid Zika infection, including travel warnings for countries and territories reporting active mosquito transmission of Zika virus. "It's my hope that we can be more convincing that Zika does cause these severe birth defects in babies and hope that people will focus on prevention more carefully," said Sonja Rasmussen, director of CDC's division of public health information.
Flint Water Crisis Yields First Criminal Charges – New York Times
Ongoing investigation into the failures that caused the drinking water in Flint, Michigan to be contaminated with lead has resulted in criminal charges against one local and two state officials, who were charged with violating Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act, among other charges. The three were responsible for monitoring water quality and are accused of distorting test results.
New York State Just Passed America’s Best Paid Family Leave Law – Huffington Post
New York State in early April passed America’s most generous paid family leave law: workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid time off. The new policy was part of the state’s budget deal, and will phase in gradually, beginning January 1, 2018. Currently, only three other states have paid leave policies: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
State laws can overrule local laws, and states can use preemption to prevent local governments from enacting local ordinances. Some experts say this is a growing trend, and are concerned that local interests are being circumvented, pointing to recent examples of local paid sick leave and anti-discrimination measures blocked by preemption.
New York City moved to prohibit the use of chewing tobacco at sports venues such as Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco all have similar laws and the state of California has issued a statewide ban that will affect stadiums in Anaheim, Oakland and San Diego next year.
Although the subject of mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers is not a new one, a recent case provided much needed guidance to hospitals and healthcare institutions. In the case, the Massachusetts Federal Court found that mandatory flu vaccinations for hospital workers does not violate Title VII, and is the first time a court has rendered a written opinion that thoroughly analyzes the issues.
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