Challenges to Public Health Legal Authority

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The role of public health in protecting the health of communities has long been upheld in the law. However, measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact have been met with challenges to public health legal authority. Various state actions across the country seek to limit emergency powers and public health authority and have the potential to constrain response in this and future emergencies, increasing the risk to the public of illness, injury and death. This session will examine actions and counter-actions, including (1) legislation to restrict public health authority, (2) structural and rights-based constitutional challenges; (3) use of conditional spending requirements; (4) federal preemption; (5) disability and other anti-discrimination laws; (6) waivers or routine uses of public health powers; and (7) civil liability claims.

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