Uncharted territory: Legal experts weigh in on the COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus warning sign in New York City

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The spread of the new coronavirus has affected people all over the world, and state and local governments are taking sweeping actions to halt the spread of the disease and mitigate the public health and economic impact of the outbreak.

HLS scholars and legal experts consider the important legal and policy concerns and challenges that have emerged—including those involving civil liberties, privacy, historical precedent, and economic impact—as cities, states and countries respond to the epidemic.

The following selection of their articles and op-eds will be updated regularly.

Coronavirus bailout: Airlines should be required to have emergency cash just like banks

An article by Ashley NunesThe numbers are staggering. Delta Air Lines is parking at least 50% of its entire fleet. United Airlines reports passenger bookings are down 70%. And 75% of American Airlines’ international flights are to be cut. Across the pond, Virgin Atlantic is offering staff eight weeks of unpaid leave, Norwegian Air is furloughing 90% of its workforce, and Austrian Airlines has suspended flights altogether. The culprit for all this is COVID-19. The rapid spread of the virus — coupled with government-imposed flying restrictions — has caused travel demand to plummet. Airline execs liken the situation to the 9/11 attacks. The comparison has some merit. In the aftermath of those attacks, bookings dropped, and airlines were left reeling. In their desperation, free market loving airline execs turned to governments for help. Governments obliged, forking out billions in taxpayer cash to keep airlines afloat. With COVID-19, expect more of the same.

Continue Reading at USA Today »

As Trump signals willingness to break with experts, his base assails Fauci

A cadre of right-wing news sites pulled from the fringes in recent years through repeated mention by President Donald Trump is now taking aim at Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, who has given interviews in which he has tempered praise for the president with doubts about his pronouncements. Although both men are seeking to tamp down the appearance of tension – “Great job,” Trump commended the doctor during the White House’s briefing on Tuesday – the president is increasingly chafing against medical consensus. He has found support from a chorus of conservative commentators who have cheered his promise to get the U.S. economy going again as well as his decision to tout possible coronavirus treatments not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…Over the weekend, Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote on Twitter, “Shouldn’t need to be said, but I personally couldn’t care less if Dr. Fauci said nice things to say about Hillary Clinton.” The “politicization of public health” means it very much does need to be said, according to Robert Faris, the research director at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. “Having Trump and Fauci on the same public stage at the same time is an untenable position for right-wing media,” he said. “Something’s got to give, and I don’t know what it is.”

Continue Reading at Philadelphia Inquirer »

Google, Oracle and Trump Put on Supreme Court Hold By Virus

The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite hold a major portion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket, including a multibillion-dollar clash between software giants Google and Oracle Corp. and cases that could affect President Donald Trump’s re-election chances. What was supposed to have been a drama-filled spring at the high court has instead become a season of waiting, especially for the lawyers and litigants in 20 arguments that had been scheduled for March and April. The court has postponed 11 of those cases and could do the same soon for the remaining nine…Similarly, the court had been aiming to resolve clashes over the Electoral College, the body that will formally select the next president, before any election controversies may arise. At issue in cases scheduled for argument April 28 is whether states can stop “faithless electors” who try to cast a vote for someone other the candidate who won their state’s balloting. “We’ve gotten no indication about whether it’s going forward,” said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and the lawyer for two groups of electors who say they have the right to vote as they please. But “we’re preparing as if it is.”

Continue Reading at Yahoo! Finance »

How to Stay Sane During a Pandemic

A podcast by Noah FeldmanLaurie Santos, a Professor of Psychology at Yale, shares tips for dealing with coronavirus-induced anxiety. For further listening, check out Laurie’s podcast “The Happiness Lab,” also from Pushkin Industries.

Continue Reading at Stitcher »

This Time the Numbers Show We Can’t Be Too Careful

An article by Cass SunsteinI have long been an enthusiastic defender of quantitative cost-benefit analysis, and recently wrote a book about it. I have also long been a critic of the precautionary principle, which calls for potentially expensive precautions against bad outcomes in the face of scientific uncertainty. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unusually challenging to engage in quantitative cost-benefit analysis. But the best available estimates, released within the last few days, suggest that the U.S. should continue with expensive precautions, even if they take a major economic toll. Back to normal by Easter, as President Donald Trump suggested? The new estimates show that that would be reckless. To adapt Patrick Henry, “Give me precautions, or give me death.” It should be acknowledged that Trump, and many others, have been right to emphasize the importance of balancing a range of considerations, and not focusing only on one. Some people in the public-health community like to look only at one side of the ledger. But a zero-risk mentality makes no sense.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

Emily Broad Leib talks Food Law and COVID-19

Today on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Dani interviews Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School & Director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law & Policy Clinic, about protecting and promoting better wages for food workers in the COVID-19 crisis. “If part of what comes from this is that we realize all the people who are handling the food from the beginning on the farm to the end of the chain are really vital. We need to treat them better, pay them better, give them benefits,” says Broad Leib.

Continue Reading at Food Tank »

Food waste impacts emerging as coronavirus shifts life from commercial to residential

Food waste experts are slowly assessing the short and long-term impacts of the new coronavirus, which remain murky. With the fallout likely stretching into coming months, some are worried about supply chain impacts — including food recovery for donation — as well as a future uptick in waste amid dramatic lifestyle alterations. Initial volume shifts are unclear at the moment, but a major surge in grocery purchases appears to be driving a decline in food waste associated with retail. Higher education and entertainment venue closures, however, are generating greater amounts than usual, while the shuttering of farmer’s markets is also expected to drive an increase in discarded products. One concern is public demand for food may lead to an uptick in waste, not only through organics, but through packaging as people shift to takeout and delivery. “I think waste is very low priority [for people right now], but food is very high priority,” Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, told Waste Dive. Her organization and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) are sharing resources aimed at connecting those issues.

Continue Reading at Waste Dive »

Why coronavirus may be a watershed moment in this digital age

They say if you do a thing for 14 days, it will become a habit. If they’re right, a lot more of us are washing our hands and keeping them out of our faces. That’s a good thing…The questions that linger for me, at least, are will this new way of doing things last and, more importantly, how will it impact our relationships with one another long term? Whatever happens, David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and a pioneering thought leader about the internet’s effect on our lives, businesses and ideas, told me this is going to be a clarifying moment for many fields that, no doubt, will soon discover that the price we pay for physical proximity is higher than we thought, and the deprivations we assumed intrinsic to digital social interactions are lower than we thought. This, he said, is not entirely unlike what email did to business meetings in the 1990s. “We thought we all had to get in the same room to work through issues and coordinate our efforts,” Weinberger said. “But as soon as email became common throughout organizations, the cost of having to get everyone in the same room became clear: The flow of work was put on hold until everybody had an open time and was in the same place.” At meetings, for instance, he said everyone had to pay attention to conversations that merited the time of only some. Anybody remember those days?

Continue Reading at Atlanta Journal-Constitution »

Trump set for clash with governors over reopening economy

President Trump’s aggressive timeline for reopening the economy could set the White House on a collision course with governors and mayors who seem intent on maintaining social distancing policies beyond the president’s Easter target date if necessary. Trump’s proposal on Tuesday to ease restrictions by mid-April came as a number of state and local governments have moved in the opposite direction, heeding the advice of public health officials to implement stay-at-home orders and close non-essential businesses to stem the rising number of coronavirus infections…While the president has clear authority to rescind or alter federal health guidelines, legal experts say state and local officials are not required to follow them if their jurisdiction’s health situation warrants stricter measures. Analysts believe that if federal and local governments begin to move in dramatically different directions in response to the outbreak, it could trigger a political fight, or perhaps a legal standoff, with implications for the fall elections. A majority of Americans, 58 percent are optimistic that the economy will recover quickly after the coronavirus abates. But if economic reality fails to match the rosier predictions, Trump could blame the weak recovery on state and local governments’ more stringent public health restrictions. “I think his biggest leverage is going to be political, to say ‘these people are ruining your local economy for no reason and I tried to stop them,’ ” said Harvard Law professor Glenn Cohen.

Continue Reading at The Hill »

Will the Armchair Coronavirus Experts Please Sit Down

An article by Noah FeldmanOne of the noteworthy aspects of our current coronavirus moment is the rapid proliferation of self-appointed data analysts. These armchair epidemiologists seem to believe they can project the trajectory of Covid-19 better than actual epidemiologists who have spent their whole careers studying the spread of disease. You know who I’m talking about: It’s not just the guy on Medium whose post gets 35 million pageviews. It’s your uncle and your co-worker (funnily enough, many of them are men) who are trying their hand at beating the pros. And of course, it includes our president. Donald Trump has said in his daily press conferences that he’s “a smart guy” who “feel[s] good about” his own predictions and has “been right a lot.” There are several possible explanations for why so many of us are trying to make our own predictions. What they all have in common is that they are based on conceptual errors. As anyone with any kind of subject matter expertise — whether in construction or constitutional law — knows, there’s a difference between actually knowing what you’re talking about and winging it.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

Aggregated mobility data could help fight COVID-19

An article by Urs Gasser: As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic worsens, understanding the effectiveness of public messaging and large-scale social distancing interventions is critical. The research and public health response communities can and should use population mobility data collected by private companies, with appropriate legal, organizational, and computational safeguards in place. When aggregated, these data can help refine interventions by providing near real-time information about changes in patterns of human movement. Research groups and nonprofit humanitarian agencies have refined data use agreements to stipulate clear guidelines that ensure responsible data practices (1). Tools for specifying different levels of privacy for different users, such as the OpenDP platform (2), can effectively manage data access, and aggregation steps have been carefully reviewed on a legal and methodological basis to ensure that the analyses follow ethical guidelines for human participants (3). To monitor social distancing interventions, for example, rather than showing individual travel or behavior patterns, information from multiple devices is aggregated in space and time, so that the data reflects an approximation of population-level mobility (4).

Continue Reading at Science Magazine »

Get ready for the $4.5tn takeover

One of the most moving responses to coronavirus has come from home-quarantined Italians singing together from their balconies. They were belting out Il Canto della Verbena or Volare. The subtext was that interdependence is the only defence humans have against their own fragility. For postwar individualist philosophers like Ayn Rand — cheerleader for the primacy of private capital — the jig is well and truly up. Witness the extraordinary efforts by governments to stabilise their economies and forestall the collapse of business. The US signed off on a $2tn aid package in the early hours of Wednesday morning and the global bailout — central bank liquidity support included — will have a sticker price of more than $4.5tn. That is a big number, even by the standards of recommended takeovers…Whole sectors — notably airlines, hotels and cruise lines — will lack a raison d’être for months. For many companies, revenues will fall short of overheads. But state support, and the quid pro quos that go with it, are preferable to going bust. “This is analogous to a war we have to mobilise to deal with,” says Jesse Fried, an economist and Harvard law professor. “It is not part of the normal boom and bust cycle.”

Continue Reading at Financial Times »

‘Coughing while Asian’: living in fear as racism feeds off coronavirus panic

When Rosalind Chou was on a flight at the end of February, she saw a woman in front of her raise her phone up high, as if taking a selfie. The woman snapped a picture and sent it to a friend, whose reply showed up in big font on the woman’s phone: “Oh no, is he Chinese?” Across the aisle from Chou was a man she later learned is Korean American and a woman sitting next to him, also of Asian descent. The woman quickly replied to her friend: “There’s a lot of them. Pray for me.” Chou knows her experience was not an anomaly. Across the US, Chinese Americans, and other Asians, are increasingly living in fear as the coronavirus spreads across the country amid racial prejudice that the outbreak is somehow the fault of China. It is a fear grounded in racism, but also promoted from the White House as Donald Trump – and his close advisers – insist on calling it “the Chinese virus” …There is also a history of leaders painting those in an outsider group as diseased, evoking fear and often violence in their followers toward that group of people, said Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Security at Harvard. Benesch coined the term “dangerous speech”: rhetoric that is used to turn one group of people violently against another… “It’s not really hatred that is the most operative in motion regarding [dangerous speech], it’s fear. Fear is what makes people turn violently against another group of people more than hatred,” Benesch said. “The level of fear is so great around this epidemic.”

Continue Reading at The Guardian »

Trump wants to scale back coronavirus restrictions by Easter to help economy. Is it all up to him?

President Donald Trump has said he wants to curtail the strict social distancing guidelines his administration put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic because of the potential impact on the U.S. economy. But Trump is not the only executive to take action in the hope of “flattening the curve,” the term medical experts use to describe a slow and steady rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 rather than a sharp spike that could overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system. As the president weighs loosening the federal guidance, he does so against a backdrop of governors who have implemented their own statewide – and independent – restrictions, from curfews to lockdowns to sweeping school and business closures…The country’s public health law is a patchwork of responsibilities divided up between the federal and state governments, but typically states are in control of “police powers,” according to Professor Glenn Cohen, faculty director for the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Some states even delegate those powers to individual localities. But if Trump decides to lift the federal guidance, states like California or New York that have issued stay-at-home orders “may decide to follow suit or not, but typically have significant discretion as to what to do,” he said.

Continue Reading at USA Today »

U.S. Semi-Shutdown Is Mostly Voluntary, and Uniquely American

An article by Noah FeldmanAs more U.S. states roll out stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of coronavirus, it’s now possible to identify an emerging American model of such restrictions. The approach is notably less strict than Covid-19 measures adopted in other affected countries, not only autocratic China, but even democratic Italy. And although the model is sufficiently restrictive that it will have massive effects on the economy, it does not come close to a complete shutdown of economic activity. The emerging American model has several distinctive elements. The first is that, while its contours are being specified in emergency orders issued first by local governments and now by state governments, it isn’t particularly coercive. Indeed, at least in this first iteration, the American model depends mostly on voluntary compliance. To be sure, governors are issuing what they are calling “orders,” not mere recommendations. Some governors, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have made a point of saying that the orders are meant to be taken seriously, and hinted that police could issue fines to violators. Yet even if police enforcement is mentioned, there is little practical possibility of systematically implementing it. There just aren’t enough law enforcement officers. The legal basis for such enforcements would be shaky given the language of the orders thus far drafted.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

Fighting Coronavirus with Data

A podcast by Noah FeldmanFarzad Mostashari, the former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Department of Health and Human Services, says we need to collect better data to effectively fight the spread of the virus.

Continue Reading at Stitcher »

For college kids coming back to Kentucky amid COVID-19, the digital divide awaits

An article by Shane Fowler ’21: The novel coronavirus has shone a spotlight on seemingly incongruous pairings: Healthcare with employment, children’s nutrition with school attendance, and corporate size with access to government assistance. So too should we examine the relationship between internet access and geographic residence. Millions of rural Americans are digitally excluded from an information-rich world. This exclusion is significant for students returning to their rural homes as universities across the country move to online learning. In doing so, the response to coronavirus exposes the nation’s uneven distribution of high-speed internet access and marginalizes students from rural America. “Digital divide” refers to the growing disparity of access to high-speed internet between underprivileged members of society, specifically those living in rural areas, and wealthier, middle-class Americans living in urban or suburban areas. According to the Federal Communication Commission and Microsoft, Kentucky is one of the worst states for access to high-speed internet and cellular data. But the state is not unique in its short-comings, around 27% of people living in rural America do not have access to minimum speed broadband internet.

Continue Reading at Lexington Herald Leader »

A Way to Help Keep the COVID-19 Economy Working

An article by Mark Roe: As the coronavirus pandemic shuts down the world’s economies, stock markets plummet, and unemployment rises, policymakers will be forced to figure out how to contain the outbreak while preventing financial and economic collapse. Most economic proposals in developed countries focus on cash payments to people, deferred tax payments, and business bailouts. But biomedicine is critical to saving the economy, and of the three major biomedical channels now in play, the least important medically is the one that could impede an economic Armageddon. It’s a test to check whether a person has had, recovered from, and thus become immune to COVID-19. Scientists say that low-symptom and symptomless cases exceed the symptomatic. When these asymptomatic people are over the infection, they could go to work – they will not infect those with whom they come into contact. But we need to know who they are.

Continue Reading at Project Syndicate »

Compassionate release now for prisoners vulnerable to the coronavirus

An article by Nancy Gertner and John Reinstein: Prisons are Petri dishes for disease in the best of times, but they could become incubators for COVID-19 now. Prisoners sleep, eat, and shower in enclosed quarters with limited ventilation. Social distancing is impossible. Prison populations also have greater rates of serious health problems than the general population. Many are elderly, and have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and cancer, conditions that, if they become infected with COVID-19, make them more likely to require intensive care and especially vulnerable to dying of the disease. On Saturday, officials announced the first case of COVID-19 at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater. An inmate serving a life sentence and his roommate have been quarantined from each other and the rest of the inmate population. We don’t have to speculate about what will happen as the disease hits the general prison system. We have seen it.

Continue Reading at Boston Globe »

House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic

Nearly 70 House Democrats on Monday formally requested that the chamber change its rules to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during national emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic. House members, most of whom are currently in their districts across the nation, are increasingly fearful for their safety if they have to travel back to Washington, D.C., and congregate in large groups to vote on the next economic stimulus package…In a letter led by Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a total of 67 Democratic lawmakers asked House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) to temporarily change the lower chamber’s rules to enable remote voting…The letter cited Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, pointing to the Constitution stating that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings” and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe stating that the Constitution “needn’t and shouldn’t be construed to preclude virtual presence any more than it had to be constituted to treat air travel or indeed email as something other than interstate commerce or electronic surveillance as less than a fourth amendment search and seizure.”

Continue Reading at The Hill »

Online Learning: How Colleges And Universities Are Educating Students Virtually

Online learning. Can it really replace the learning and community that’s being lost as campuses across the country are closed? Guest: Justin Reich, assistant professor in the comparative media studies and writing department at MIT. Faculty associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab.

Continue Reading at WBUR »

Prisons and Jails Are a Coronavirus Time Bomb

A podcast by Noah Feldman: Homer Venters, the former Chief Medical Officer for the New York City Jail system, says that we need to stop the spread of coronavirus in prisons, jails, and detention centers to have any hope of flattening the curve.

Continue Reading at Stitcher »

Trump’s Fear of Experts Hurt the Coronavirus Response

An article by Noah FeldmanWith every passing day, it becomes more and more apparent that the U.S. federal government’s  response to Covid-19 has been appallingly slow and inadequate. A major reason is that the person at the apex of that institution, President Donald Trump, dislikes and distrusts the expert bureaucrats who make the government actually function. The laws that govern emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic give enormous power to the executive branch to direct and coordinate disaster response. These laws are not designed to empower the president personally. To the contrary, the whole point of the emergency laws is to empower government experts who know what must be done in a crisis — that is, career technocrats who work at agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the federal emergency management agency (FEMA). Congress doesn’t trust the president in an emergency. It trusts the experts.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

Coronavirus: Yes, businesses can kick you out for coughing. But there are some exceptions.

As millions of Americans shut their doors to the threat of coronavirus, those who venture out — whether to seek necessities or in ignorance of new guidelines — face a rapidly changing world. Businesses have shuttered or limited their hours. Health care facilities have changed their intake procedures. And places that do remain open have refused service to customers for reasons that just weeks ago would have seemed unreasonable: because they wore scrubs, talked about recent travel abroad or had a coughing fit. Scores of affected Americans have taken to social media to complain, with some even asking whether it’s legal for businesses to boot coughing customers. The short answer to that question is, yes…Under the Civil Rights Act, a business can’t deny goods or services based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Under current circumstances, that means a business can’t deny service to a customer from a specific country, even if it’s seen an uptick in coronavirus cases. The same goes for people with impairments, who are guaranteed accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the law does not require businesses to serve those who pose “a direct threat to the health and safety of others,” said Joseph Singer, a law professor at Harvard Law School. Nor does a coronavirus diagnosis qualify as a disability under the law, added Stacey Lee, a business law expert at Johns Hopkins University.

Continue Reading at USA Today »

Could Trump declare national coronavirus shutdown? Momentum is rising

Momentum appears to be building for a national shutdown to confront the coronavirus crisis, raising the prospect that President Trump could issue an order requiring people to stay at home. Such an order would be unprecedented in American history, but some of Trump’s top advisers have said publicly they would be open to it. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday he had raised the prospect of such a dramatic step with the administration…What such an order at the federal level might look like — and even whether Trump has the authority to issue an order — is unclear, because no president had ever tried it before. “I don’t think Congress has ever authorized the president to issue a curfew or a shelter-in-place order,” said Michael Klarman, a constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School. “I’m sure the Trump people will think Trump can do whatever he thinks is necessary to protect the nation’s health. I have a hard time imagining this Supreme Court ruling otherwise. And I have little doubt Trump would violate a court order anyway if he thought he could get away with it.”

Continue Reading at The Hill »

California’s Stay-at-Home Order Is a Legal Mess

An article by Noah FeldmanCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order may well be necessary as a matter of public health in the face of the new coronavirus — I will leave that to epidemiologists to determine. But viewed as a legal declaration, it’s a total mess. Most worrisome, the order fails to create an exception to the stay-at-home requirement for the free press to function — an exemption that is certainly mandated by the First Amendment. Instead, the order creates exceptions by referring to a federal list of 16 “critical infrastructure sectors” — a list that itself fails to say that a free press is a constitutionally specified form of critical infrastructure, without which we cannot hope to cope with a pandemic like Covid-19. The order is also drafted so badly that it creates contradictions with the state’s own website explaining it; with the governor’s own speech rolling it out; and with common sense. As written, the order does not say clearly that Californians can leave their homes to buy food or medicine or other necessities. It doesn’t say whether they can go out to help family members or friends who are themselves vulnerable or otherwise in need. It is silent on going out for exercise. Although context suggests all these may be permitted, the formal legal implication of the text would be that all are prohibited.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

U.S. Federalism Isn’t Great at Handling Pandemics

An article by Noah Feldman: One of the weirdest things in this weird historical moment is the hodgepodge nature of the coronavirus responses from different state, county, and local governments throughout the United States. In essentially every other country on earth, central government authorities are directing and running the response to Covid-19. If Italy shuts down, it’s the Italian government that decides to do it. If Germany chooses to end hotel stays, it’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who makes the call. But in the U.S., separate Bay Area counties can go one way, the mayor of New York another, and the governor of Massachusetts yet a third. There’s little if any national coordination. It hardly seems like an optimal arrangement during a global pandemic. The explanation for this bizarre diversity of uncoordinated responses can’t be laid solely at the feet of President Donald Trump, despite his alarming lack of leadership. The deeper explanation is the distinctive, peculiar system of U.S. federalism.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

Cooking Through the Crisis with Mark Bittman

A podcast by Noah Feldman: With restaurants and bars across the country temporarily closing down due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, many of us are finding ourselves cooking for the first time in a long time. So today, Deep Background is taking a quick break from covering the spread of COVID-19 to share this conversation with Mark Bittman, the food writer who taught so many of us how to cook. The author of best-selling cookbooks like How to Cook Everything and Vegan Before 6, Bittman offers some tips on how to cook fish and reflects on what he has learned from over two decades of writing about food.

Continue Reading at Stitcher »

Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19

A podcast by Noah Feldman: Dr. Rebecca Berman, program director for UCSF’s Internal Medicine Residency, discusses the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, what to do if you feel sick, and tips for self isolating safely. Plus, hospital readiness, and the situation on the ground in San Francisco.

Continue Reading at Stitcher »

In Fight Against Coronavirus, Governments Face Trade-Offs on Privacy

1000’s of individuals in the USA have examined optimistic for COVID-19, and the dying toll around the globe has surpassed 6,000. Italy is below lockdown and in New York Metropolis the federal government is demanding companies together with bars, eating places and film theaters be closed in an effort to stem the unfold of the virus. After draconian measures have been applied in China to halt the fast an infection charge of the virus, together with motion restrictions, massive scale surveillance and compelled isolation, it appears such measures are working, with new instances in China declining…Beneath laws from the Occupational Security and Well being Administration plus legal guidelines together with the People with Disabilities Act (ADA), HIPAA, and the Genetic Info Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), amongst others, employers should respect employees privateness and different rights. With coronavirus, that will preclude administering any form of well being testing or straight inquiring about an worker’s well being situation or medical prognosis, says Elizabeth M. Renieris, a lawyer and a fellow at Harvard College’s Berkman Klein Center for Web and Society… “This isn’t a time for employers to opportunistically accumulate further details about their staff or to introduce worker surveillance measures,” says Renieris. “Staff don’t give up all of their privateness rights in a disaster.”

Continue Reading at Sunrise Read »

The government might want your phone location data to fight coronavirus. Here’s why that could be okay.

The United States government wants tech companies to tell it where you’ve been as part of its effort to fight the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to the Washington Post. And while that sounds invasive on its face, it is possible for the government to do this and preserve our digital civil rights — as long as the correct safeguards are put in place first. The Post reported on Tuesday that the US government is in “active talks” with tech companies including Facebook and Google about using location data they collect from users to map the spread of the virus or predict future outbreak areas. The government has yet to confirm the report, but the details we have suggest that this plan is in its early stages…David O’Brien, a senior researcher and assistant research director for privacy and security at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, told Recode that the American government will have to walk a fine line if it wants to get useful information while still preserving citizens’ privacy rights. “It is possible to do this and to provide some privacy,” O’Brien said. “But I think that the trade-off has always been you want to very carefully match any types of privacy measures you put in place against what is it that you ultimately want to learn from the data.”

Continue Reading at Vox »

The Pandemic Could Change How Americans View Government

The economic fallout is here. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are losing their jobs, watching small businesses around them close up shop, and fretting about their retirement savings. It’s a bleak scenario that has lawmakers scrambling to soften the blow: Yesterday, Congress passed a relief package that temporarily mandates paid sick and family leave for some workers, expands unemployment insurance, and increases funding for food stamps and Medicaid—and that could be only the beginning of the government’s response…More recently, the same dynamic played out with the Affordable Care Act. Though the law was fairly unpopular when it first passed, it drew more support from Americans over time. In fact, while the GOP ran on repealing the law for the better part of a decade after its passage in 2010, Republicans quickly changed their message from “repeal” to “repeal and replace” when it became clear that most Americans didn’t want the law to go away—a tacit acknowledgement that the country would not be returning to a pre-ACA era. Even when Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, they repeatedly failed to overturn the ACA—though the administration has undermined the law in other ways.“The attempt to delegitimize the Affordable Care Act is to delegitimize the idea that government can actually do things to help the lives of citizens,” Kenneth W. Mack, a Harvard University law professor, told me.

Continue Reading at The Atlantic »

A terrible precedent: We lost one of Tuesday’s four primary states

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has done an excellent job proactively addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Closing schools, restaurants and bars was absolutely the right call for someone unwilling to engage in pandemic denial. However, the Republican governor’s action to delay the primary election was a mistake. (The other three states that vote on Tuesday all affirmed they would proceed with the elections.)…In a chaotic interval between the governor’s announcement and the scheduled opening of the polls at 6:30 a.m., the state supreme court weighed in to side with the governor. Four justices — two Democrats and two Republicans — agreed to delay the primary. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe warns, “Postponing elections could become dangerously easy. The temptation is one worth trying hard to resist.”

Continue Reading at Washington Post »

Maybe COVID-19 will remind us why government is not the enemy

An op-ed by Susan CrawfordAfter the stock market collapsed in late 1929, many people in the United States lost their jobs. By 1932, one in four Americans was suffering from lack of food. President Hoover, enamored of the efficiency of the private market and suspicious of all foreign countries, raised tariffs and waited, confident that the market would recover and all would be well again. Government intervention, he warned, would plunge the country “into socialism and collectivism.” The world seemed dark. With the COVID-19 crisis growing worse by the hour, the federal government’s colossal mishandling of it from the start — with faulty and too few tests and President Trump’s false claims that the virus was contained — may finally wake up our complacent country. We desperately need competence and courage in our government. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt trumpeted this message before cheering crowds, and went on to swiftly create a set of government structures based on the idea that government planning and support are necessary to keep us safe, provide opportunities to all, and ensure that no one is left out. It’s too bad that it takes a crisis to remind us what government is good for, but that’s where we are today.

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‘Shelter in Place’ Is Not Martial Law

An article by Noah FeldmanA “shelter in place” order has been issued for seven counties around San Francisco, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering issuing one for New York. Leaving aside the degree of public health necessity, the obvious question is: How can and will such orders be enforced? The first point to note is that the Bay Area order doesn’t — at present — contain any criminal sanction for violation. It is, in effect, firm guidance rather than government command backed by the threat of criminal penalties. Some European countries are imposing monetary fines for breaking such orders. The San Francisco order doesn’t do that. The order does “request” that the police “ensure compliance with and enforce this order.” And it declares that violation of the order “constitutes an immediate threat and creates an immediate menace to public health.” But if the police chose to arrest violators, this language would probably not be enough to sustain a criminal conviction. The order is simply too vague, and the punishment for constituting a threat or a public health menace would have to come from some existing statute or ordinance.

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The Right Way for Presidents to Address ‘Fear Itself’

An article by Cass Sunstein: The coronavirus epidemic has produced several different kinds of crises. It is of course a public health crisis, first and foremost. But it’s also an economic crisis, an international-relations crisis and a crisis of public morale. Fear is widespread and mounting. There was no pandemic, of course, but the economic crisis was incomparably worse. And the crisis of public morale, though also much worse, had similar features. The U.S. has not been here before, but it has been in the vicinity. In some ways, the closest analogy is to the Great Depression.

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The Economic Impact of COVID-19

A podcast by Noah Feldman: Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics at Harvard, discusses the economic harms of COVID-19 and measures governments can take to soften the blow of a recession.

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Explaining a mass quarantine: What does it mean to ‘shelter in place’? And who has the power to call for it?

Six counties in the San Francisco metro area made headlines when they announced Monday they were ordering all their residents to “shelter in place” in response to the novel coronavirus. The sweeping proclamation is the most striking example to date of state and local governments in the United States taking sweeping action to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and to limit the impact of the disease it causes, Covid-19. While the Bay Area is the first region in the U.S. to issue such an order, a number of states have mandated school and business closures and vastly curtailed nearly all major events… “The good news [is] there are a number of cases on public health needs, the constitution, and the so-called state ‘police power.’ The bad news is they are quite old, mostly turn of the 20th century, and a huge amount of constitutional law has changed since then. As a result there is a lot that is vague and uncertain in this area,” said Glenn Cohen, the faculty director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

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Criminal Courts Can’t Pause for Pandemics

An article by Noah Feldman: It’s good news that the Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments indefinitely. If nothing else, it helps keep Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg safe. Spry but still a cancer survivor, she celebrated her 87th birthday yesterday. I would say it’s practically a national security imperative to keep the nation’s unofficial favorite Jewish grandmother away from anyone who might give her the coronavirus. Apart from the health of the other justices (such as Justice Stephen Breyer, 79), the court personnel and the lawyers, the suspension of Supreme Court arguments also carries an important lesson for the rest of the justice system: It must respond creatively to the pandemic by maintaining core operations while limiting those aspects of its usual functioning that might endanger public health. At the Supreme Court, it’s relatively easy to eliminate situations that might lead to infection. That’s because the justices in general have relatively little public interaction with the parties who appear before them.

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White House Seeks Financial Crisis-Era Powers to Buttress Economy

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that he would ask Congress to reinstate powers that were used during the 2008 financial crisis to support the economy as the coronavirus threatens to grind business activity in the United States to a halt. The comments suggest that the White House is bracing for a widespread downturn that could harm sectors well beyond the travel and cruise ship industries, and that the federal government could need to return to the type of crisis-era measures that were ultimately scaled back by lawmakers in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act…Hal Scott, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School and the director of the nonprofit Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, said the Fed must restore its ability to be the world’s most powerful lender of last resort. It was unfortunate that such authorities needed to be reinstated amid a crisis, he said. “It would have been better to do it before the crisis,” Mr. Scott said. “When you get into a crisis and you do it, there’s a concern that you’re sending a panic signal — that we’ve got to do this, we need this power.”

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Civil Liberties in the Time of COVID-19

A podcast by Noah FeldmanRichard Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and a leading Supreme Court advocate, discusses where public health stops and our individual liberties begin. Plus, what does it mean that the Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments?

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T14 Law Schools Go Virtual in Response to Coronavirus

The top rated law schools in the country will all be moving to virtual instruction in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. All of the T14 law schools, which hold the top rankings in U.S News and World Report, had announced plans to move to virtual instruction in the coming weeks as of Thursday. Many other law schools across the country, including those in areas among the most affected by the virus, such as Washington State and New York, have also suspended in-person classes. Harvard Law School brought broad attention to the issue of coronavirus spread with an announcement March 10 that students will be asked to go remote.

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Response to coronavirus could test limits of government powers

Coronavirus lockdowns abroad are raising questions about the upper limits of government power as health officials in the U.S. and around the world scramble to slow the spread of infection. The U.S. public health toolbox contains a host of potential measures, ranging from gentle prodding over hand washing, to more severe actions like prohibitions on large gatherings and even sharp restrictions on the movement of infected individuals. … “In times of emergency — including public health emergency — the temptation to violate individual rights is at its greatest, and the courts have often been called on to defend the rights of the vulnerable,” said Harvard Law professor Glenn Cohen.

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What We Know About How Coronavirus Spreads

A podcast by Noah Feldman: Siddhartha Mukherjee, physician, researcher, and author of the 2011 Pulitzer-Prize winning book The Emperor of All Maladies, discusses what we know about how coronavirus spreads and what we don’t know.

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