Emergency Legal Preparedness and Response

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Latest Resource

Primer: Emergency Legal Preparedness Concerning Ebola

This primer provides key information on the 2018-2019 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including international response efforts, U.S. preparedness and response, an outline of the major legal challenges, and emergency legal preparedness resources. The primer will be updated regularly as needed as circumstances develop.

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Webinar

Measles Outbreak: Public Health Authority, New York City’s Immunization Mandate, and the Current Legislative Landscape

June 4, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. EST. The U.S. is experiencing its highest number of measles cases in 25 years and researchers anticipate additional outbreaks, with Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami listed among the cities at high risk. Cities and states across the U.S. have been challenged by efforts to contain the spread of this highly contagious disease. Some states have moved to prohibit all vaccine exemptions while other are considering it. Other jurisdictions have felt the need to take more urgent actions, including New York City, which declared a state of emergency and ordered mandatory vaccination. View the playback.

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From the Public Health Law Blog

New York City’s Public Health Emergency Order on Mandatory Measles Vaccinations – FAQs

This week, New York City declared a public health emergency in response to a measles outbreak which has infected hundreds of residents, mostly children. The emergency declaration includes an order for mandatory MMR vaccinations affecting residents in select areas of Williamsburg and Brooklyn where most of the existing infections have arisen. Some see the order as an unusual exercise of public health authority. Our FAQ breaks down the key components of the mandate and the legal requirements.

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From the Legal Assistance Library

Ebola Virus and Animal Quarantine

What tools does the law provide to protect the public's health when pets and other animals could be carriers of Ebola virus?

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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.