Concurrent Session Descriptions

All times are in Eastern Time (ET)

COVID-19 Tracking and Control Measures

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Contact Tracing, Intrastate and Interstate Quarantine, and Isolation
Contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation are core communicable disease control measures used by public health departments as part of a comprehensive case ascertainment and management strategy. To date, their implementation as part of U.S. response efforts at the national, state, and local levels has been confounded by the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak; lack of a systemic infectious disease response; insufficient and fragmented funding streams; low levels of public accountability; and concerns about the impact of such efforts on individual privacy, liberty, and travel rights, as well as the financial and personal costs that may arise out of a positive diagnosis. Discussion will include initiatives designed to make more effective use of these disease control measures in response to the challenges presented by the current pandemic response in the U.S.

  • Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, Professor of Health Policy and Management, Indiana University

Surveillance, Privacy, and App Tracking
Over the last several months, global innovators have developed an array of “smart” technology protocols and applications aimed at tracking, tracing and containing the spread of COVID-19. This session will provide an explanation of how digital COVID-19 surveillance applications work, assess their effectiveness from a public health perspective and note the legal and policy issues that they implicate. Proposals aimed at maximizing the public health benefits of COVID-19 surveillance technology while minimizing its inherent and conceivable threats to privacy, civil liberties, and vulnerable populations will also be presented.

  • Jennifer D. Oliva, JD, MBA, Associate Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law

Impact of Federalism and Preemption on State and Local Efforts

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Federalism in Pandemic Prevention and Response
Federal-state conflicts over business regulations, controls on personal movement, and financial support and coordination of supply chains have dominated headlines during the coronavirus pandemic. This session will outline how these conflicts have stymied efforts to ramp up and coordinate need-based distribution of resources for implementing widespread testing, tracing and supported isolation and quarantine of individuals; ensuring widespread availability of adequate personal protective equipment for health workers, other essential workers, and the general public; and ensuring widespread access to therapeutics and vaccination based on equitable and public health-based criteria.

  • Lindsay F. Wiley, JD, MPH, Professor of Law, Director of Health Law and Policy Program, American University Washington College of Law

Preemption, Public Health, and Equity in the Time of COVID-19
Preemption is a legal doctrine that allows a higher level of government to limit or eliminate the power of a lower level of government to regulate a specific issue. As governments seek to address the myriad health, social and economic consequences of COVID-19, an effective response requires coordination between state and local governments. Unfortunately, for many localities the misuse of state preemption over the last decade has increased state and local government friction and weakened or abolished local government’s ability to adopt the health- and equity-promoting policies necessary to respond to and recover from this crisis. In this session, the presenters will discuss the ways in which the conflict between state and local governments has cost lives, delayed effective responses and created confusion that continues to undermine public health efforts.

  • Kim Haddow, BA, Director, Local Solutions Support Center
  • Derek Carr, JD, Senior Attorney, ChangeLab Solutions
  • Benjamin D. Winig, JD, MPA, Founder, ThinkForward Strategies

Legal Epidemiology and Crisis Standards of Care

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Is Law Working? A Brief Look at the Legal Epidemiology of COVID-19
Legal intervention has featured prominently in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and researchers have tried to guide that response in real-time. Studies have tried to measure rapidly changing legal interventions, and tentatively to assess their current effects and predict their future impact. In a moment when law can have huge positive and negative effects, this kind of legal epidemiology research can fairly be regarded as a crucial element of the overall COVID-19 response. This session with provide a rapid overview of important takeaways from this evolving evidence base.

  • Scott Burris, J.D., Professor of Law, Temple Law School and Director, Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University
  • Evan Anderson, JD, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania

Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources and Crisis Standards of Care
In March and April, COVID-19 patient surges tested the health care system and highlighted the need to prepare to accommodate larger patient capacity in the months that followed. As a primary consideration, governments and health care institutions should utilize existing powers and resources to avoid shortages and mitigate their severity. If shortages do occur, most states have begun to develop crisis standards of care protocols to assist in making decisions about allocating scarce resources. This session will discusses important protections that should be taken into consideration when constructing crisis standards of care plans, including incorporating protections that prioritize antidiscrimination, fairness, and equity in allocation decision making.

  • Lance Gable, JD, MPH, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School

Harm Reduction and Behavioral Health in the Midst of a Pandemic

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Access to Care for Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder
The United States is currently facing two severe public health emergencies: COVID-19 and the continuing epidemic of preventable opioid-related harm. While these two epidemics share some similarities, there is one key difference: while there are currently no proven approved pharmaceutical treatments for the novel coronavirus, highly effective medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) have existed for decades. In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies have taken steps to temporarily remove some legal and regulatory barriers to these medications.  These changes are not comprehensive and, as most are tied to the coronavirus COVID-19 emergency declaration, they are currently set to expire when that declaration is lifted. This session will highlight the potential positive impact of increased access to OUD treatment, current changes to increase access to that treatment, and recommendations for making those changes permanent.

  • Corey S. Davis, JD, MSPH, Director, Harm Reduction Legal Project, Network for Public Health Law;
  • Amy Judd Lieberman, JD, Senior Attorney, Harm Reduction Legal Project, Network for Public Health Law

Legal Strategies for Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing in the COVID-19 Pandemic
The inadequacy of our mental health care system, including lack of parity in coverage by public and private insurance and provider shortages, has been apparent during the response to COVID-19. The inability to meet basic needs contributes to stress, anxiety, and depression. Long-standing inequities make targeted legal action critical to support mental health in communities of color. With schools abruptly shifting to remote learning approaches, support for the mental health and well-being of students, teachers and adults in schools, and parents, is needed. This session will examine interventions aimed at public mental health, such as Psychological First Aid, the Crisis Counseling Program, suicide prevention, and violence prevention programs along with strategies to support posttraumatic growth once the pandemic has ended.

  • Jill Krueger, J.D., Region Director, Network for Public Health Law—Northern Region

Assessing Federal, State and Local Response Measures

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Chronological Overview of Federal, State, and Local Emergency Measures
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States, federal, state and local governments have taken varying degrees of legal action to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact on the public’s health and health care systems. Federal action has primarily consisted of national emergency declarations, travel bans, laws aimed at mitigating economic impacts of COVID-19, and guidance on social distancing measures. Legal action at the state and local level has focused heavily on social distancing requirements and measures to reduce the spread of the virus, including stay at home requirements, prohibitions on large gatherings, closures of non-essential businesses and schools, and mandatory use of face coverings. This session with provide an overview of these actions, identifying the chronology of the federal legal response and highlighting policy trends at the state and municipal level.

  • Katie Moran-McCabe, JD, Special Projects Manager, Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University Beasley School of Law

A Portrait of COVID-19 in Minnesota
This session will provide insight into the interaction between, and the powers and responsibilities of, the governor, the state health commissioner, the legislature, local public health and Tribal Government in Minnesota in response to COVID-19. Examples of issues, including case investigation and contact tracing; emergency declaration and executive orders; sharing data with law enforcement and the state’s mask mandate will be provided along with the corresponding legal considerations these issues raise.

  • Patricia Freeman, JD, MPH, Legal Counsel/Policy Analyst, Minnesota Department of Health

Challenges for Government, Business and Health Care Sectors

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Government Authority: Mass Movement, Business and Property Control Measures
Government powers to impose physical distancing comprise an important strategy to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This session will examine the efforts of government to limit mass movement and large gatherings, close businesses and school, and restrict non-essential personal, recreational, and commercial activities. Government legal authority to impose these restrictions to stop the transmission of an infectious disease with no effective treatment or vaccine is generally quite broad. However, government orders that restrict movement or activity must consider the effects on constitutional rights and the economic, social, and health impacts that restrictions impose.  

  • Lance Gable, JD, MPH, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School

Liability Protections for Businesses and Medical Professionals
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, claims will be brought by consumers (predominantly nursing home residents) alleging that businesses failed to protect them, patients treated at the height of the pandemic when emergency departments were overrun, and consumers who contract the virus during re-opening. The session will examine the liability of businesses and medical professionals for acts and omissions involving COVID-19 mitigation, treatment, and re-opening and will provide an analysis of the federal and state liability shields, those that were in existence before COVID-19, those introduced more recently, and calls for more and broader shields.

  • Nicolas P. Terry, LLM, Hall Render Professor of Law and Executive Director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Access to Health Care in a Pandemic

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

State and Federal Medicaid’s Vital Role in Addressing Health and Economic Emergencies
Medicaid plays an essential role in helping states respond to crises. Medicaid guarantees federal matching funds to states, which helps with unanticipated costs associated with public health emergencies, like COVID-19, and increases in enrollment that inevitably occur during times of economic downturn. Under federal guidance, states have implemented a variety of options to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Congress enacted short-term legislative responses that increase federal funding for Medicaid and open new pathways for eligibility and payment for some COVID testing. While these responses have softened the double blow of the pandemic and its attendant recession, this session will outline the federal and state action that is necessary going forward in order to adequately address the increased need for Medicaid coverage.

  • Nicole Huberfeld, JD, Boston University School of Public Health and School of Law
  • Sidney Watson, JD, Saint Louis University Law School

The Limits of Private Health Insurance
Shelter-in-place orders, social distancing, and other public health strategies to address the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in high unemployment in the U.S., leaving many who had employer provided health insurance without coverage. Those who are not eligible for employer-sponsored insurance must fend for themselves in the non-group market, unless they qualify for government-sponsored insurance or safety net programs. This session will discuss the private insurance market and the existing flaws in the patchwork approach to paying for and providing access to medical care in the U.S.

  • Nicole Huberfeld, JD, Boston University School of Public Health and School of Law
  • Sidney Watson, JD, Saint Louis University Law School

Protecting Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Immigration Law’s Adverse Impact on COVID-19
Within the U.S., immigrant communities have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 due to a variety of factors, including high rates of employment as essential workers; substandard housing; and immigration-based restrictions on non-citizens’ access to public benefits, including Medicaid. This session will discuss the deleterious role immigration laws have played during the pandemic including the recently promulgated public charge rule, along with ongoing immigration enforcement activities and anti-immigrant rhetoric that have compounded these vulnerabilities, leaving many immigrants afraid to access health care or interact with public health workers.

  • Wendy E. Parmet, Matthews University Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University

Protecting the Rights of People with Disabilities
One in four Americans experience some form of disability. On average, people with disabilities experience significant disparities in education, employment, poverty, access to health care, food security, housing, transportation, and exposure to crime and domestic violence.  These longstanding inequities are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and by governmental and private responses that discriminate on the basis of disability.  Legal protections of people with disabilities are governed by two key federal laws:  the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  This session will examine how the broad reach of these laws impacts a host of issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how gaps in protections as well as widespread lack of knowledge of and noncompliance with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act limit their impact.  

  • Elizabeth Pendo, JD, Joseph J. Simeone Professor of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law

Civil Rights and Public Health

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Endless Looping of Public Health and Scientific Racism
COVID-19 has exacerbated deeply divisive fissures of race, ethnicity and American political identity. There is a new intensity to the way that race, racism, and health risk have been jockeying for headlines. Given a global pandemic and a federal administration desperate to salvage its reelection prospects, questions of distributive justice—from vaccines to ventilators to triage—have become complicated by some very destructive ideas. This session will examine why it is imperative that terrible old ideas about race are not injected back into public policy practice in ways that threaten to create whole new regimes of discrimination, segregation and “race science.”

  • Patricia J. Williams, JD, Northeastern University School of Law

Fostering the Civil Rights of Health
This session will discuss “the civil rights of health,” an approach that enables civil rights and public health advocates to amplify their effectiveness by partnering with organizations that fight discrimination. Pandemics, like climate disasters, thrive on inequality. COVID-19 is no exception, flourishing where inequality has weakened the social fabric. One of these weaknesses is long-standing racial discrimination, which has produced unjust, racialized disparities in COVID-19 transmission and mortality, and disproportionate economic harm to people of color. Efforts to address these racial disparities have been hindered by a series of governance and advocacy disconnects. One promising tool to bridge these disconnects is research on the social determinants of health. Highlighting the ways in which discrimination is a public health problem allows legal advocates to use civil rights law as a health intervention and public health advocates to squarely challenge discrimination.

  • Aysha Pamukcu, JD, 2019-2020 Fulcrum Fellow, ChangeLab Solutions

Privacy, Civic and Public Health

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2020

COVID-19: Data Sharing for Public Health Surveillance, Investigation and Intervention
Public health’s COVID-19 surveillance, investigation and intervention balances an individual’s right to privacy against the public’s and other’s right to know. 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? This session will identify various federal and state laws, including HIPAA, that impact public health’s ability to share COVID-19 information. This session will provide a review of current data sharing questions facing your peers; an understanding of HIPAA’s data sharing limitations and opportunities and an awareness of other federal and state law considerations.

  • Sallie Milam, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health Law, Mid-States Region Office
  • Denise Chrysler, JD, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Mid-States Region Office

Conducting Elections during a Pandemic
It’s now clear that we should plan for the highest voter turnout in generations this fall, even as it’s also clear that foreign disinformation campaigns are ramping up and restrictions and fears due to the pandemic will be in full force. What’s also apparent, however, is that law, policy, and perhaps most importantly, administrative and informational practices in our highly-decentralized administration of elections are not yet fully-equipped to facilitate safe, secure, and convenient voting for 150 million Americans in the midst of a global health crisis. And while solutions like expanding mail voting will be necessary, no one solution will solve this problem, nor will all states find themselves able to offer the same options to all voters. This session will discuss the multi-faceted approach that is needed to allow for safe and convenient in-person voting, and the unparalleled voter education effort needed to meet this challenge.

  • David J. Becker, A.B., History, University of California Berkeley 1991, J.D. University of California Berkeley 1994, Executive Director and Founder, The Center for Election Innovation & Research

Governance and Decision-Making in a Pandemic

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Executive Decision Making for COVID-19: Public Health Science through a Political Lens
Executive decision making is the crux of using law to achieve public health objectives. But public health codes and emergency declaration laws are not self-executing. This session will examine how elected officials and public health officers have used their legal authority to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It will include an overview of an executive decision-making tool for public health officials and describe the general legal background in which these decisions have been made. The presenters will apply the decision-making tool to how governors in eight states have determined whether to issue stay-at-home orders and when to relax these restrictions.

  • Peter D. Jacobson, JD, MPH, University of Michigan
  • Denise Chrysler, JD, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Mid-States Region Office

Upholding Tribal Sovereignty and Promoting Tribal Public Health Capacity during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tribes are sovereign nations with authorities and responsibilities over their land and people. This inherent sovereign authority includes the right to promote and protect the health and welfare of their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought national attention to the health inequalities experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The sovereign legal authority for Tribes to respond to this pandemic has received less attention. In this session, the presenters will discuss some of the urgent legal issues impacting Tribal response to the COVID-19 pandemic along with recommendations on how law can be better used to support Tribal responses as the pandemic unfolds.

  • Aila Hoss, JD, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law
  • Heather Tanana, JD, MPH, Assistant Professor & Wallace Stegner Center Fellow, The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

Safety for Care Facilities and Essential Workers

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Implementation and Enforcement of Quality and Safety in Long-Term Care
Long before COVID-19 struck, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities had declining quality care that coincided with inadequate staffing and rampant infections. These pre-pandemic conditions increased the vulnerability of these facilities to an infectious disease outbreak. As the elderly death toll rises into the tens of thousands, an overdue national discussion on how to prioritize long-term care in the US has emerged, revealing an opportunity to better link quality care metrics with sufficient reimbursement and meaningful regulatory oversight. However, the opposite approach has also surfaced, which would allow the status quo to continue and may erode the minimum standards of care that currently exist. This session will discuss efforts to relax the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulatory authority over nursing homes along with states’ actions in passing measures to limit liability exposure for nursing homes during COVID-19, and the need for legislative reform that will lead to better later-in-life care.

  • Tara Sklar, JD, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Protecting Workers that Provide Essential Services
States and localities have designated more than 55 million Americans as “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Most essential workers are employed in health care and in food and agriculture. A majority of all essential health care workers are women, while half of all essential food and agricultural workers are racial and ethnic minorities. Consequently, many women and racial and ethnic minorities are unable to shelter at home or socially distance themselves even when they are sick because they are deemed essential workers. While they are deemed as essential, these workers have not been provided with the employment and safety protections that are essential to keeping them and their families healthy and safe. This session will discuss the measures that states and the federal government need to take to ensure adequate health and economic protections for essential workers. 

  • Ruqaiijah Yearby, JD, MPH, Professor, School of Law, Center for Health Law Studies and Executive Director and Co-Founder, Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, Saint Louis University School of Law

COVID-19 and the Social Determinants of Health

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Pandemic Meets a Housing Crisis
Housing instability in the United States has been exacerbating health disparities and causing worse health outcomes for low-income individuals and people of color well before the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 increased the number of families afflicted with housing instability and prompted an unprecedented government response to this issue. Certain legal constraints that perpetuated a system of discrimination were rapidly suspended or amended, given that it was not only low-income individuals, but also middle and upper-class people who struggled with housing and utility payments, income insecurity and other stressors exacerbated by the pandemic. However, in many instances, laws that are equally applied to all individuals widened the gap between people at different places on the socioeconomic continuum. This session with discuss the compounding demographic factors that complicate the legal response to housing problems and will offer recommendation for mitigating the negative effects of policies and regulations that contribute to housing instability.

  • Courtney Lauren Anderson, JD, LLM, Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law

Protecting  Jobs and Income during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the harmful impacts of disparities in access to workplace supports like paid leave and unemployment benefits, and has led to worsening economic conditions for people already living on the margins. In March 2020, Congress enacted temporary emergency paid sick and family leave for the first time, as well as expanded unemployment benefits, but both programs have serious gaps that disproportionately impact women, people of color, low-income workers, and immigrants. This session will examine the income and job protection policy responses to COVID-19 and will include recommendations for additional solutions that center the needs of low-wage workers and families, and prioritize racial and gender equity and access for immigrants.

  • Sharon Terman, J.D., Director, Work and Family Program and Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work

The Crisis for Marginalized Populations

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

COVID-19, Incarceration, and the Criminal Legal System
The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the deleterious public health impact of policing, prisons, community supervision, and other elements of the United States’ vast system of control and punishment. As police are taking on enforcement of physical distancing and other public health orders, prosecutors are criminalizing infection spread. Even as COVID-19 is bolstering its power, the criminal legal system is resisting changes necessary to facilitate pandemic response, instead fueling its spread. Despite the scientific consensus that prisons and jails must be rapidly depopulated to avert disaster, the number of people released has remained small, resulting in explosive outbreaks of COVID-19 behind bars. With a focus on incarceration, this session will provide an overview of how the US carceral system shapes its COVID-19 response along with the current debate about divestment from structures of social control in favor of a renewed focus on the social contract. 

  • Leo Beletsky, MPH, JD, Professor of Law and Health Sciences and Faculty Director, Health in Justice Action Lab, Northeastern University
  • Jessica Bresler, JD, Research Assistant, Center for Health Law and Policy

LGBT Communities in the COVID Pandemic
LGBT individuals suffer disproportionately in the COVID-19 epidemic. They are likely to be exposed to COVID-19 in greater numbers and suffer to a greater degree if they contract the disease. They are more likely to lose access to essential medical services, including gender confirmation and HIV medications. They are likely to suffer economic harms to a greater degree, since they are more likely to work in industries with exposure to, and likely to close because of COVID-19. They also are more likely to experience mental and emotional harms arising from the isolation, or sheltering-in-place COVID-19 necessitates. Finally, when LGBT individuals seek assistance from elsewhere, including through social services, homeless shelters, and welfare, they often suffer discrimination. All these harms fall even more disproportionally on LGBT people of color and transgender individuals. This session will discuss the protections that policymakers must put in place to combat these harms and ensure that LGBT organizations that provide critical services in a safe space remain funded and open.

  • Craig J. Konnoth, M.Phil., J.D., Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law

Public Health Messaging in a Politicized Pandemic

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Communicating about COVID-19 Response Measures in a Volatile Environment
Effective messaging is essential in order to make the legal, policy, or fiscal changes demanded by this pandemic.  COVID-19 is top of mind for citizens, public health, health care and local policy makers alike, but people with different political perspectives view COVID differently. In this challenging time, it’s crucial that public health professionals be able to speak productively and meaningfully with people who hold different political perspectives and view complex health issues differently. This session will present research that shows the relationship between our political views and the foundational moral values with which we resonate. Though all of us confront numerous divides ranging from generational to political, the public health workforce can bridge these differences to become trusted messengers and further the health of their communities during this pandemic. This session is designed to benefit both frontline public health workers and organizational managers engaging in law, policy and/or fiscal change.

  • Gene Matthews, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Southeastern Region Office
  • Dawn Hunter, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health Law—Southeastern Region Office
  • Elizabeth Thomas, MPH, Community Engagement Coordinator, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

The Critical Need for Digital Access and Telehealth

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Telehealth in the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the value of telehealth as a public health measure by permitting health care at a distance, keeping providers and patients safe while enabling healthcare in strained health systems. The federal government has enacted three new pieces of legislation relating to telehealth in response to Covid-19. These new federal laws provide additional funding and regulatory flexibility to states for telehealth under the Medicare and TRICARE programs. This session will explore how states have acted through legislative, regulatory and executive actions to leverage telehealth in the Covid-19 response.

  • Cason D. Schmit, J.D.

COVID-19 Illuminates Need to Close the Digital Divide
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for internet connectedness – school and work closures and social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 require individuals to rely even more heavily on internet and phone access to meaningfully participate in telehealth programs, distance learning, and job opportunities. Yet, there remains a large digital divide in the United States, with many households lacking access to reliable broadband services. This digital divide has long been a factor limiting the achievement of public health goals for individuals that lack essential broadband infrastructure and COVID-19 response efforts have further limited internet access for those that rely on public internet access points such as public libraries. This session will explore law and policy opportunities to reduce the digital divide and the resulting public health consequences flowing from the digital divide.

  • Betsy Lawton, Senior Staff Attorney, Network for Public Health Law, Northern Region Office

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Public Health Law on the Frontlines: Changing Lessons for the 21st Century
While the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on all Americans’ health and livelihoods may hopefully diminish in the months ahead, legal repercussions will leave lasting impressions. Public health laws and policies are under substantial scrutiny against the backdrop of significant failures to control COVID-19 cases across the U.S. coupled with constitutional and other objections to efficacious legal interventions. Some legal reforms designed to improve the public’s health (particularly during emergencies) are already underway; others are under consideration.  This session explores key current and future legal reforms emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic, offering an assessment of known and potential changes ahead.

  • James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Western Region Office

Assuring Access to Abortion and Reproductive Services
During the spring of 2020, numerous states announced measures suspending abortions in response to COVID-19. Banning abortion during the pandemic is counterproductive. Impeding access to abortion will not help preserve healthcare resources. Moreover, prohibiting access to abortion care exacerbates the strain on the healthcare system. People who lack access to abortions will travel to neighboring states, induce their own abortions, or carry pregnancies to term, which will require prenatal care and assistance in childbirth. Perhaps more importantly, the people hit hardest by suspending abortion care are those for whom the pandemic already has had devastating effects. This session will discuss more effective means for conserving healthcare resources and ways in which policymakers can eliminate barriers to safe abortions services now and in the future. 

  • Rachel Rebouché

Protecting the Health of Children and Families

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Using SNAP to Address Food Insecurity during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the U.S. economy with over 44 million Americans filing for unemployment by mid-June 2020. This economic devastation is expected to force an additional 17.1 million Americans into food insecurity. Government is adapting key food security programs and implementing new interventions to meet this challenge. This session will examine how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest nutrition program, is being leveraged during the pandemic. While key adaptations are being made to increase the effectiveness of these programs, this session will also address the additional measures that are needed to protect vulnerable Americans during the pandemic.

  • Mathew Swinburne, JD, Associate Director, Network for Public Health Law-Eastern Region

To Open or Not to Open: Deciding How to Educate Children during a Pandemic
State and local governments have struggled with whether and how to allow public, private, and parochial schools to educate in-person during the pandemic. The federal government has offered suggestions for opening safely and pressed for schools to open on schedule. This presentation will survey the varying approaches state and local governments have taken with regard to K-12 education during the pandemic. How has the shared responsibility between state and local jurisdictions functioned?  How will schools meet legal requirements for students with disabilities? What have schools put in place to minimize widening of the student achievement gap? Education is a social determinant of health and public health professionals should be part of the conversation and decision making with their colleagues in the education community.

  • Kathleen Hoke, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Eastern Region Office

Addressing the Critical Shortage of Medical Supplies

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Assuring Essential Medical Supplies during a Pandemic: Markets, Mandates, Coordination and the Law
Federal law anticipates that emergencies can generate sudden demand for medical equipment.  Federal agencies have ample legal authority to respond to shortages, but also the duty and the authority to prepare for emergencies by planning, supply-chain monitoring, investment and partnership with the private sector, and stockpiling.  Perhaps the most important federal law for preventing and ameliorating shortages, and the primary focus of this session, is the federal Defense Production Act (“DPA”). The DPA provides a menu of powers to stimulate production, strengthen supply chains, coordinate expertise, and resolve market failures. Although the shortfall in personal protective equipment and other basic medical equipment was anticipated by planners and demonstrated in simulation exercises, federal action to address the problem in the face of the pandemic have landed somewhere between failing and making matters worse.  This session will examine how the federal response has failed and will present recommendations for addressing these failures.

  • Scott Burris, J.D., Professor of Law, Temple Law School and Director, Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University
  • Evan Anderson, JD, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania

COVID-19: State and Local Responses to PPE Shortages
In mid-March, health care workers on social media and elsewhere sounded the alarm: #GetMePPE. This public plea was in response to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at many hospitals, coinciding with surges in hospital emergency department and intensive care unit capacity due to COVID-19. Within days, the Strategic National Stockpile of PPE was depleted; states, localities, and hospitals had to act urgently to procure PPE and reuse or extend the use of existing PPE. A true cottage industry emerged, consisting of a network of designers, makers, engineers, and health care workers focused on designing and producing high-quality PPE to address urgent needs. This session will provide a review of the actions taken by the FDA in response to the PPE shortage, the impact of local manufacturing of PPE in one US state (Massachusetts), and solutions for federal and state policymakers to ensure robust state and community-level responses to shortages in the future.

  • Michael S. Sinha, MD, JD, MPH, Harvard Medical School Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science

Fast-Tracking Development of Medical Products and Vaccines

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

Expanding Access to Patents for COVID-19
Two competing sets of goals—static and dynamic— must be addressed when considering patent policy in response to a public health emergency. Static considerations relate to the allocation of existing resources among potential users, while dynamic considerations relate to the creation of new technologies over time. In the case of COVID-19 response, allocative goals, particularly satisfying demand for patented medical products in the field (e.g., ventilators, PPE and test kits), may be achieved through governmental interventions.  But in cases involving the development of new technologies such as vaccines, inventive structures must be preserved to ensure that the private sector is appropriately motivated to contribute. This session will discuss why it is critical that policy makers consider both static allocative issues and dynamic innovation issues during a public health crises.

  • Jorge L. Contreras, J.D., Presidential Scholar and Professor of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law; Adjunct Professor, Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine

Drug and Vaccine Development and Access
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, drug and vaccine manufacturers may seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of their products via traditional approval mechanisms and offer pre-approval access under the expanded access or right to try pathways. In a public health emergency, like Covid-19, an additional mechanism is also available: the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) pathway. This session will assess how the FDA has used its EUA authorities for Covid-19 drugs to date, and will examine how the FDA has balanced the need for robust evidence of safety and effectiveness for Covid-19 pharmaceuticals against the urgent need to speed patients’ access amid the clinical and political realities of the pandemic, and will highlight considerations specific to vaccines should FDA be faced with a request to issue an EUA for a Covid-19 vaccine. The session will conclude with recommendations for policymakers and regulators at the federal and state levels.

  • Patricia J. Zettler, JD, Moritz College of Law and The James Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University;
  • Micah L. Berman, JD, College of Public Health, Moritz College of Law, and The James Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University
  • Efthimios Parasidis, JD, MBE, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and College of Public Health

Closing Plenary

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2020

From Global to Local: Guiding COVID-19 Laws and Policies
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged policymakers to make critical choices in a complex, changing environment. Amid uncertainties, legal decisions determining the fate of human lives and economies must be based on the best available scientific evidence, guided by principles of health justice, and reflective of evolving concepts of human rights. This closing plenary session takes a “global to local” perspective by identifying universal threats from the COVID-19 pandemic, assessing how varying countries’ responses support improved health through human rights, and applying key observations to local communities.

  • John Monahan, Network for Public Health Law Advisory Board Member, Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives to the President of Georgetown University
  • Umunyana Rugege, Executive Director, Section 27
  • Matthew Kavanagh, Director, Global Health and Politics Initiative, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law
  • Lindsay F. Wiley, Director, Health Law and Policy Program, American University’s Washington College of Law

Public Health Law and Policy Q&A Sessions

Wednesday, September 16, 3:45 – 5:00 p.m.
Five Q&A sessions with law and policy experts from Network Regional Offices will be available on Wednesday to provide attendees with opportunities to ask questions and receive real-time legal technical assistance on a broad array of issues.

• Housing stability/eviction prevention
• Food access
• COVID and incarceration
• Public health decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic: challenges and opportunities
• COVID-19 data sharing and related privacy issues  
• Mental health and well-being
• Broadband access  
• Medicaid expansion and access
• Federal non-discrimination laws in the health context
• Access to prevention, treatment, and care for people who use drugs
• Covid-19 messaging in a difficult communications environment  
• Scope, extent and duration of federal, state, and local emergency declarations and powers
• Constitutionality of key public health prevention efforts and opposing arguments
• Navigating legal issues related to implementing crisis standards of care during a pandemic
• Preemption and conflicting social distancing measures between federal, tribal, state, and local governments
• Impact of COVID-19 on vaccination policies and requirements for 2020-2021 SY (related to pending publication of the manuscript)
• Legal considerations for airports/mass transit during a communicable disease pandemic  

Networking Sessions

Thursday, September 17, 3:45 – 5:00 p.m. ET

CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Order
Join Kerri and other colleagues for a discussion about the CDC’s historic nationwide eviction moratorium Order, which bans residential evictions for failure to pay rent from September 1 to December 31, 2020. We will talk about the provisions, scope, and effect of the Order and whether Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act authorizes the CDC to take such actions. We will also discuss the likelihood of legal challenge in court on statutory and constitutional grounds and the implications of judicial outcomes on future federal public health interventions aimed at combating communicable disease.

  • Kerri Lowrey, JD, MPH, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health—Eastern Region Office

Harm Reduction
Join Corey and colleagues for a discussion of the ways in which COVID-19 has worsened the ongoing crisis of drug-related harm, and how some organizations and officials are working to reduce those risks. Potential topics of discussion include utilizing existing law to minimize disruption to harm reduction supplies and services, extending temporary changes to opioid use disorder treatment, and permanently shifting the dialogue regarding the health and human rights of people who use drugs.

  • Corey Davis, JD, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health—Southeastern Region Office

Medicaid Access and Maternal and Child Health
Sarah will highlight some of the challenges that have arisen during the COVID-19 emergency for families and children who need Medicaid services, as well as examples of state innovations intended to enhance access. Participants can share their own stories of barriers and successes and learn from colleagues around the country.

  • Sarah Somers, JD, MPH, Managing Attorney, Network for Public Health—Southeastern Region Office

Public Health Official Safety
Join Brooke and fellow colleagues for a discussion of the ongoing threats many public health officials are experiencing as a result of their protective and enforcement efforts in response to COVID-19. Brooke will have available the criminal statutes in each state that public officials may use when threatened for doing their jobs during the pandemic. Get insight from others and share your experience in addressing this unprecedented public health workforce issue.

  • Brooke Torton, JD,Senior Staff Attorney, Network for Public Health—Eastern Region Office

State and Local Strategies to Address Racism in Health Care and Public Health
Join fellow colleagues in a discussion about how to turn a commitment to addressing racism into meaningful action. This conversation will delve into ways to acknowledge racism as a health determinant, inform the development of equitable laws and policies, and shape public discourse. Dawn will have examples of how cities, states, and counties are acting on their commitments and highlight tools and tips for public health practitioners. Hear from fellow colleagues about actions being taken in their jurisdictions and share your experience in the movement to address racism as a public health issue.

  • Dawn Hunter, JD, MPH, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health—Southeastern Region Office