Emergency Legal Preparedness and Response

Latest Resource

Primer: Emergency Legal Preparedness Concerning Zika Virus

The Network’s Primer outlines public health concerns related to the Zika virus and lays out current and anticipated legal preparedness and response issues internationally and in the United States. These include issues related to testing and screening, public health preparedness, and reproductive rights. This Primer is updated regularly as events develop, so be sure to check this page for new information.

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Zika Preparedness and Response: A Public Health and Legal Perspective

Friday, March 18 from 1:00 -2:00 p.m. (ET). This webinar will provide an overview of the public health problem posed by Zika, discuss the domestic legal framework for addressing the virus, including a discussion of executive powers for mosquito abatement, and  highlight ways to coordinate health care and public health legal preparedness efforts. View the playback.

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From the Public Health Law Blog

Flint Water Crisis: Policy Measures to Address the Health Consequences of Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning affects people of all ages. Children and pregnant women who suffer from prolonged lead exposure are especially at risk for serious lifelong health and socioeconomic consequences. Lead poisoning is often irreversible and policymakers have the opportunity to increase measures to mitigate the effects of lead poisoning.

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From the Legal Assistance Library

Zika Virus Emergency Legal Preparedness

The Network was contacted recently by a requestor who wanted more general information about Zika as well as information about emergency legal preparedness around a possible U.S. outbreak of the virus. The Network is working in real-time on these specific issues and was able to provide several helpful resources.

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Primary Legal Issues

Legal authorities vary across states, tribal governments and localities during declared emergencies. As seen during the 2009-2010 H1N1 outbreak, jurisdictions may take divergent legal approaches in their responses to national or regional public health threats. Conflicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions further complicate key decisions on when or how to respond.

Public health officials may face many critical legal and policy decisions during public health emergencies, including:

  • Inter-jurisdictional legal coordination of federal, tribal, state and local actors in real-time emergencies under changing legal norms
  • The ability to issue isolation or quarantine orders, or other social distancing methods, to control public health threats
  • Whether to close or dismiss schools, or other public assemblies, temporarily or for prolonged periods to prevent the spread of communicable diseases
  • The authority to mandate vaccinations for minors or autonomous adults, including health care workers
  • Licensing, credentialing and privileging out-of-state health practitioners
  • Inter-jurisdictional management of scarce resources including personnel, vaccines, shelter and sustenance
  • Omnipresent concerns over liability of public health practitioners during emergencies

Technical Assistance Capacity

The Network for Public Health Law can provide legal guidance, training and support to address these and other legal and policy issues in emergency preparedness. These issues may be addressed during non-emergencies through advance planning and education, innovative exercises and other training efforts. During emergency declarations, the Network can provide real-time legal guidance to help public health leaders as they respond and make critical decisions with potential legal ramifications.

For legal technical assistance and support with emergency legal preparedness and response:

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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 does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.