Without a vaccine, writes Jennifer Daskal, the United States and other countries are struggling with different tools to stem COVID-19. A critically important one is health surveillance. Previous crises, such as 9/11, also led to restrictions—but often secret—on civil liberties. A pandemic’s surveillance response has a different goal: to educate and inform. Health surveillance provides officials and the public with valuable information on rising hotspots, when to test after exposure, and monitoring compliance with quarantine orders.
Daskal adds to this topical debate by outlining various types of surveillance schemes and associated technology—public or private, universal or targeted, mandated or consent-based—as well as the U.S. legal and policy considerations that each system will face. Professor Daskal argues that, despite the challenges, good health and good privacy can and should go hand in hand.
The Hon. James E. Baker writes that Defense Production Act (DPA) was enacted to provide the federal government with the authority to systematically mobilize the industrial capacity of the nation to address national security emergencies. While it has been primarily used to prioritize DoD contracts and to incentivize the production of goods for which there is otherwise too small a market, it may prove to be useful in combatting the effects of COVID-19.
If the DPA were to be used to its fullest extent, it may become an important authority for producing a COVID-19 vaccine at scale; for constructing a long-term, secure, and independent medical supply chain; and stimulating the economy by making the U.S. a global arsenal of public health.
In his examination of the DPA, Baker outlines the ways it has been used both during and before the pandemic, considers real and perceived concerns over its potential use, and highlights issues that should be addressed as soon as possible. He further provides three lessons that can be learned from the DPA’s non-use and suggests methods to ensure the adequate preparation for challenges yet to come.
The public’s reliance on journalists and news media to stay informed is critical during a public health crisis. In their article, Adam Marshall and Gunita Singh survey and analyze how public access to government records and meetings has been impacted by the pandemic while also focusing on the key role the new media plays in informing the public about COVID-19.
Marshall and Singh examine how access to public records has been limited at the federal, state, and local levels through restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, actions taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State, and local governments which have suspended access to information. The article also focuses on how the news media has navigated its role in disseminating information during the pandemic despite various roadblocks which limits its access.