Federal COVID-19 Response Unlawfully Blocks State Public Health Efforts

Ellen W. Clayton, Vanderbilt University Law School
Barbara J. Evans, University of Florida Levin College of Law


The federal government recently used preemption unlawfully to prevent state public health efforts to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19.

As 1,000 current and former CDC epidemiologists noted in an open letter, the federal government has failed (https://medium.com/@eis1984/open-letter-by-epidemic-intelligence-service-officers-past-and-present-in-support-of-cdc-759cdc0666c3) to use legal powers it does have to manage the crisis,leaving states to “invent their own differing systems” to manage COVID-19. We add that the federal government is now asserting emergency powers it does not have to disable state public health responses.