Gavel and stethoscope.

Public Health Law and Civil Rights Laws Must Work Together to Rise to the Challenge of Long COVID

By Elizabeth Pendo

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need for public health laws and policies that align with and reinforce civil rights protections for disproportionately impacted populations is greater than ever. In particular, disability rights laws will be critical for responding to the millions of Americans who experience lasting or recurring symptoms after acute COVID-19 infection (commonly referred to as “long COVID”). This article will discuss the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in protecting the rights of people with long COVID and other disabilities in the workplace, in health care, and in disability and other benefits in order to chart an equitable path forward.

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Gavel lying in a courtroom.

Improving the Future of Public Health by Applauding Appropriate Judicial Oversight

By Marshall B. Kapp

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Establishment (PHE)/legal enterprise collaborative fell short of constitutional standards in a number of situations, resulting in adverse judicial rulings of which the PHE and its like-minded academic advocates now complain.

This unhappiness with judicial oversight is an opportunity for introspection. Rather than blaming nefarious or deplorable other forces, a better approach to rehabilitating and enhancing public health law in the future lies instead in the PHE taking stock of itself and committing to a more open-minded, humility infused, and objective approach to the definition of science, the role of expertise, and the better targeted and clearly justified employment of legal force in the next major public health emergency context.

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President Joe Biden at desk in Oval Office.

Federalizing Public Health

By Elizabeth Weeks

The most promising path forward in public health is to continue recognizing federal authority and responsibility in this space. I carefully choose “recognizing,” rather than “expanding” or “moving” because it is critical to the argument that federal authority for public health already exists within the federalist structure and that employing federal authority to address public health problems does not represent a dimunition of state authority. Rather than a pie, of which pieces consumed at the federal level necessarily reduce pieces consumable at the state level, we should envision the relationship as a Venn diagram, where increasing overlap strengthens authority for promoting and protecting public health broadly.

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The United States Capitol building at sunset at night in Washington DC, USA

The End of Public Health? It’s Not Dead Yet

By Nicole Huberfeld

Once again, health law has become a vehicle for constitutional change, with courts hollowing federal and state public health authority while also generating new challenges. In part, this pattern is occurring because the New Roberts Court — the post-Ruth Bader Ginsburg composition of U.S. Supreme Court justices — is led by jurists who rely on “clear statement rules.” This statutory interpretation canon demands Congress draft textually unambiguous laws and contains a presumption against broadly-worded statutes that are meant to be adaptable over time. In effect, Congress should leave nothing to the imagination of those responsible for implementing federal laws, i.e., executive agencies and state officials, so everything a statute covers must be specified, with no room for legislative history or other non-textual sources.

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Group of students wearing protective medical masks and talking, standing in lecture hall at the university.

Public Health Law’s Future Begins in the Classroom

By Taleed El-Sabawi

The use of emergency public health powers by state and local governments during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic led to intense public criticism followed by legislative attempts (include some successes) to strip state executives of this authority. This has led some to ask: is this the end of public health law? What does the future hold?

For public health law to survive, it needs a good defense. It needs passionate advocates. It needs a growing constituency that understands its utility and its importance in protecting the health of the population. But, let’s face it. I would wager a guess that the vast majority of law students, law professors, and law school administrators do not even know what public health law is.

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Lawyer working with agreement in office. man signing hand writing pen attorney concept.

Strategic Maneuvers in Response to COVID-19 Denialist Laws and Policies

By James G. Hodge, Jr.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, now entering its fourth year in 2023, legislators, executives, and judges at every level of government have sought measures to derail efficacious public health interventions. Despite clear risks of excess morbidity and mortality, these law- and policy-makers, often in more conservative jurisdictions, intentionally chose to push laws, guidance, and decisions prioritizing rapid “returns to normalcy” over the health and lives of Americans.

Casual observers of these collective trends may see the end of public health powers and services as we know them in the United States. And that’s where they are wrong.

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New York NY USA-August 17, 2021 Businesses in Chelsea in New York display signs requiring proof of vaccination prior to entering.

Employers and the Future of Public Health

By Sharona Hoffman

As state and federal public health authority erodes, employers may increasingly find themselves playing a central role in promoting public health. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers either incentivized or required employees and customers to be vaccinated and/or masked even in the absence of federal and state mandates. In the future, they may frequently take the lead in implementing public health measures.

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