Pandemic Policymaking

ChangeLab Solutions staff contribute to report Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19
COVID-19 Policy Playbook

As US policymakers work to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a new report offers policy recommendations on 35 wide-ranging topics, from pandemic preparedness and health care to conducting sound elections and implementing immigration policy. Designed to advise leaders at federal, state, and local levels, the report presents a timely examination of policy challenges and opportunities in light of the pandemic.

Sarah de Guia’s editorial contributions. As a member of the editorial committee, ChangeLab Solutions’ CEO, Sarah de Guia, JD, reviewed the entire report from the perspective of health equity. She noted, “This virus is a threat to everyone, but it has not affected everyone equally. COVID-19 has exposed too many empty promises of equal justice under law.”

Commenting on health disparities, de Guia stated, “Too often, the law treats ‘essential workers’ as expendable workers. Inequitable protections and access to health care, especially among low-income communities and people of color, is a major national weakness that must be addressed urgently to prevent further loss of life in this emergency and in future crises. Although law alone cannot solve the nation’s health disparities, better use of legal tools can help turn things around in the near term.”

Read the full report.

ChangeLab Solutions attorneys’ chapter on preemption. Among the 50 national experts who were convened to assess the United States’ policy response to the COVID-19 crisis, ChangeLab Solutions Senior Staff Attorney Derek Carr and Vice President of Law Sabrina Adler contributed to a chapter examining how preemptive laws are affecting local communities’ ability to protect the health of their most vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

Read the chapter Preemption, Public Health, and Equity in the Time of COVID-19  by Kim Haddow, BA, Local Solutions Support Center; Derek Carr, JD, ChangeLab Solutions; Benjamin D. Winig, JD, MPA, ThinkForward Strategies; and Sabrina Adler, JD, ChangeLab Solutions..

What’s covered. The report provides critical legal analysis and recommendations rooted in empirical evidence and expert assessment. Each chapter discusses how the law has been used, misused, or under-used in the response to COVID-19. Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19 addresses not only legal doctrine but also matters of implementation, providing strategies and resources for policymakers and offering innovative and research-driven policy solutions.

As the impact of the pandemic and government responses continue to unfold, the report also raises important questions about the efficacy of efforts to contain COVID-19 and to maintain human and civil rights, equity, and ethics.

Acknowledgments. Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19 was produced by Temple Center for Public Health Law Research; Center for Health Policy and Law, Northeastern University School of Law; Public Health Law Watch; Wayne State University; Indiana University; The Network for Public Health Law; and ChangeLab Solutions.

This work is sponsored by the American Public Health Association and the de Beaumont Foundation.

Download the executive summary, full report, or individual chapters at

Listen to Sarah de Guia discuss health equity, health disparities, and COVID-19 as well as how the playbook addresses these issues.

8/18/2020; updated 8/19/2020