Weekly Review: COVID-19 Legal and Ethics Issues – June 7, 2021

Weekly Review: COVID-19 Legal and Ethics Issues – June 7, 2021

Vaccine Requirements for Employers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its guidance on pandemic-related policies for employers. While any policy will need to be checked against both state laws (for example, if that state has prohibited employer vaccine passports) and federal disability and civil rights laws, the guidance gives the green light to several types of employer vaccine policies that have been gaining prominence, including:

  • Allowing employers to require employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 before returning in person to the workplace. The EEOC cautions, however, that “Employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.”
  • Allowing employers to provide proof of vaccination.
  • Permitting employers to offer non-coercive incentives for vaccination (either in employer-based vaccination programs or those run by third parties)

The EEOC offers several examples of the types of efforts employers might take to offer “reasonable accommodation” to those employees with either a disability or sincerely held religious belief who do not create an undue hardship on the employer’s business, including having the unvaccinated employee who enters the workplace “wear a face mask, work at a social distance from coworkers or non-employees, work a modified shift, get periodic tests for COVID-19, be given the opportunity to telework, or finally, accept a reassignment.”

See the EEOC guidance linked above and search for “5/28” to find all the places where the most recent updates have been made.

End of National Eviction Moratorium in Sight

The CDC’s national eviction moratorium is scheduled to end on June 30 (if it is not overturned before that by the Supreme Court). While some states plan to extend protections beyond June, analysis of recent Census data finds that nearly 10 million renters — one out of every 7 in the U.S. — remain behind on rent. Furthermore, the survey found that economic troubles continue to plague a significant share of the U.S. population, as “more than 26% of Americans continue to have trouble meeting their usual expenses, and around 9% couldn’t afford enough food.”

Contact Tracing’s COVID Challenges

A study out June 3, 2021 in JAMA Network Open, “COVID-19 Case Investigation and Contract Tracing in the U.S., 2020,” concluded that contract tracing efforts in the U.S. had a “suboptimal impact” on viral transmission during the pandemic, based on findings that “2 of 3 individuals with COVID-19 were either not reached for interview or named no contacts when interviewed. A mean of 0.7 contacts were reached by telephone by public health authorities, and only 0.5 contacts per case were monitored, a lower rate than needed to overcome the estimated global SARS-CoV-2 reproductive number.”

As the experts quoted in an NPR piece on the wind-down of contact tracing programs by local health departments explain further, the ineffectiveness of these efforts stems in part from the lack of support local public health departments had been suffering from for decades prior to the pandemic. As one expert stated,

“Scaling up contact tracing was a larger task because you weren’t just starting from zero, you were starting from a deficit when it came to the workforce,” said Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. “Local health departments entered the pandemic down over 20% of their workforce capacity.”

“We didn’t have a deep bench — we didn’t have a bench at all,” she added.

More Law-, Ethics- and Policy-Related Articles of Note:

|2021-06-07T08:36:15-04:00June 7th, 2021|COVID-19 Literature|0 Comments

About the Author: Ross Silverman

Ross Silverman
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health and Professor of Public Health and Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He is a member of the IU Centers on Health Policy and Bioethics. His research focuses on public health and medical law, policy, and ethics, and law's impact on health outcomes and vulnerable populations. He also serves as Associate Editor on Legal Epidemiology for Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. His most recent Covid-19 publications include: "Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2" in the New England Journal of Medicine (with MM Mello & SB Omer), and "Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive" in BMJ (with ZD Berger, NG Evans & AL Phelan)

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