Any pandemic is a medical crisis first, but it is also a social crisis and in the case of COVID-19, it has been a financial crisis. On top of that, emerging pathogens push new legal issues into the forefront. Currently with COVID-19 we are at a great crossroads where businesses and services are opening up while at the same time the virus is surging out of control in several states. That points to another reality, we have had a patchwork approach to the pandemic, and we also have a patchwork of state laws to contend with.
In re-approaching the workplace and places of service and public accommodation in the wake of COVID-19, there are a number of tools in the toolbox. Obviously testing for COVID-19, the wearing of masks, appropriate distancing, temperature screening and there has been discussion of using antibody tests as a means to screen and categorize people and even terming a positive status as an “immunity passport”. Ultimately there may be a vaccine.
But in the United States, there are also an array of anti-discrimination laws; there are health privacy laws at both he federal and state levels; and there are regulations that guide what constitutes a safe workplace. And there are people who have religious beliefs that may be asserted related to medical care. If you shuffle this half of the deck with the half outlined above, what do you get? It is not as uncomplicated as one might think.
On Monday, June 29 at 1 PM Eastern Time, I will be moderate a webinar to discuss the medical, legal and ethical aspects of COVID-19 at this particular juncture in the pandemic. Join me as I discuss the issues with an infectious disease specialist and a legal expert in workplace issues.
Given my background as a lawyer for people with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, I witnessed first-hand how a pandemic pushes new legal boundaries – and that sometimes we are so focused on the medical side of the equation, we think of the legal side only when it is too late. I hope you can find the time on Monday to hear this discussion.
You can register for the free Webinar here.