“The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is pleading with consumers to ‘just say no to reusable bags’ for the duration of the pandemic, in order to protect baggers and cashiers who’ve inadvertently been placed on the front line.” [Patty Wetli, WTTW] Many cities and states are listening: “San Francisco has reversed its 13-year ban on plastic bags and will now prohibit the reusable bags city leaders once championed because of the coronavirus.” Massachusetts, New Hampshire and other states have taken similar steps. [Jeff Mordock, Washington Times] “We have always been at war with Reusable Totes” [Iowahawk]
- I’ve started a notebook at Cato tracking abuse of government’s emergency powers. First installment tags NYC mayor de Blasio (claims he will shut down synagogues “permanently” if they defy his orders), L.A. mayor Garcetti (going to use the city utility to shut off violators), and a Gotham group that sees the crisis as the perfect excuse for an edict banning tobacco;
- Drones spy on Brits taking country walks: “Here’s the problem, beyond the creepy secret surveillance: These people in the video are not in violation of this new law. The Derbyshire Police are in the wrong.” [Scott Shackford]
- To get more ventilators, just order private companies to make them, say fans of the Defense Production Act. Not as simple as that [Megan McArdle]
- “Needed fast: a plan to open up the economy again in a virus-safe way…. figure out what combination of personal distancing, self-isolation, testing, cleaning, etc. will allow each kind of business to reopen, at least partially.” [John Cochrane and more; Chris Edwards, Cato]
- Many states have laws against wearing face masks on the street, which one hopes will go unenforced for masks meant to intercept virus transmission [Jacob Sullum]
- In retrospect, it might have been wise for the World Health Organization to express its opposition to tobacco use in some way other than by calling it a “pandemic” [Pierre Lemieux]
As demand for videoconferencing and other online services soars in the pandemic emergency, European policymakers “are now eating crow and entreating video platforms to downgrade the quality of their streams, an about face from the regulatory dogma that ‘all data is equal'” You mean net neutrality wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? On dubious European concepts of data privacy, meanwhile: “The GDPR’s forced data minimization has dulled the effectiveness and granularity of data from mobile apps, devices, and networks which can help manage quarantine efforts and ideally lessen restrictions in uninfected zones.” [Roslyn Layton, AEI; Stewart Baker on the phone location app used in Singapore’s contact tracing efforts] Related: Alec Stapp thread (greater U.S. investment in broadband). More: Thomas Firey, Cato.
I joined hosts Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally on the Maryland Association of Counties’ popular Conduit Street Podcast, which has a large circulation among civically-minded Marylanders and national reach as well. Our talk ranged widely over legal and governmental aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, including government’s emergency powers, and how they sometimes don’t go away when the emergency ends; the role of the courts, both during the emergency and after it ends, in enforcing and restoring constitutional norms; contrasts between the state and federal handling of the crisis; and the opportunity this provides (and has already provided) to re-examine the scope of regulation, which has been cut back in many areas so as to allow vigorous private sector response in areas like medical care, delivery logistics, and remote provision of services.
On a special bonus episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Walter Olson joins Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson to examine the role of state and local emergency powers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. A resident of Frederick County, Olson recently served on the Frederick County Charter Review Commission. Olson has also served as the co-chair of [the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, created in] 2015.
MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.
You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.
You can listen and download here (40:04). [cross-posted from Free State Notes] Related: Nashville radio host Brian Wilson did an extended riff on my Wall Street Journal op-ed on federalism and the virus emergency; you can listen here. And I appeared on screen as a source for a Sinclair Broadcasting TV report (see 1:45+).
- “Feds Say It’ll Take Up To 90 Days to Approve New Mask-Making Facilities” [Christian Britschgi, Reason] “America Could Import Countless More Face Masks if Federal Regulators Would Get Out of the Way” [Eric Boehm] Reversing course, FDA agrees to permit wider use of a system developed by Battelle for sterilizing specialized masks worn by front-line health workers [Rachel Roubein, Politico] In the face of mounting criticism, federal Centers for Disease Control may reconsider guidance discouraging general public from wearing face masks [Joel Achenbach, Washington Post]
- What would we do without the FDA? “FDA Tells At-Home Diagnostics Companies To Stop Coronavirus Test Roll-Outs; The companies are complying. Customers won’t get their results and are being told to destroy their test kits.” [Ronald Bailey, Reason] Small favors: FDA “is easing up on some regulations so that ventilators can be manufactured and implemented more quickly” to respond to crisis [Scott Shackford]
- And the same continued: “The idea to expand testing of drugs and other medical therapies was strongly opposed by the FDA’s senior scientists this week, the official said, and represented the most notable conflict between the FDA and the White House in recent memory.” [Tyler Cowen] “FDA Shouldn’t Keep Safe Drugs off the Market” [David Henderson]
- Off-label or no, “the FDA granted an emergency authorization request to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine available from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), the federally operated supply of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals for use in public health emergencies.” [Naomi Lopez and Christina Sandefur, In Defense of Liberty (Goldwater Institute); Ronald Bailey; Jim Beck; earlier on off-label prescribing here, etc.] Switch of beverage alcohol firms to making hand sanitizer was advanced by waivers from FDA and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [Jeffrey Miron and Erin Partin]
- Needless face-to-face consults avoided: “Health Canada Sets A Good Example By Relaxing Opioid Prescribing Rules During COVID-19 Pandemic” [Jeffrey Singer, Cato] Some moves in the right direction in the U.S. too [Singer]
- Even the New Jersey courts aren’t buying the ambitious theory of “fourth-party payor liability,” in which a plaintiff who never “claimed to have used the product, paid for the product, acquired the product, or had any interaction with the product (or its alleged manufacturers) in any way” nonetheless sues them for supposedly driving up health insurance costs [James Beck, Drug & Device Law]
- Heartburn drug: “Trial lawyers start search for next big mass tort, increase Zantac ads by more than 1,000%” [John O’Brien, Chamber-backed Legal Newsline]
I’m in the Wall Street Journal today with this paywalled piece on the triumph of federalism on pandemic response: would-be modernizers aren’t scoffing at state government any more, as governors lead the way.
The piece briefly mentions that after surviving yellow fever Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza underwent quarantine in the Schuyler Mansion on the order of Albany officials. That was a fun one to research. The essentials are found briefly stated in item number 10 of this list or in this longer narrative. Hamilton wrote a letter griping about the conditions of his confinement. And this article recounts how after the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, Congress expanded the federal government’s role in epidemic response, seen as a helper to the states.
More: responsive thoughts on federalism and the virus emergency from Ilya Somin.
Some disabled rights advocates say until schools can adapt online lessons to assist every special ed kid, schools should not be allowed to use remote learning to finish this year’s curriculum. Fortunately, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said no to that bit of zealotry — even if it did carry the day in school systems like Chicago’s. My new Cato post argues that the advancement of the student body as a whole should not be held hostage to anti-discrimination principles.
- Bonfire of the regulations, continued: feds and states ditch trucking rules to keep the deliveries rolling [Christian Britschgi, earlier on bonfire of the regs]
- Poll finds U.S. public approving extraordinarily coercive measures to combat epidemic, in many cases with little if any gap between parties [Adam Chilton, Summary, Judgment]
- Could the emergency spur a shift to online video notarization, already authorized in 10 states? [Eugene Volokh]
- “It must really be the apocalypse if the state of Oregon is letting drivers fill their own tanks. My favorite moment in this FAQ: ‘How will I know how to pump my own gas?'” [Jesse Walker linking Eugene Register-Guard]
- Legal resources related to the crisis, from the UCLA law library;
- Eggs in one basket: tsunami of unemployment claims should force rethink of monopoly state fund idea practiced by four states (Washington, Ohio, North Dakota, Wyoming) [Ray Lehmann, R Street Institute]
Is it questionable and suspicious for doctors to administer a medication that has not been proved effective for the use in question? Nope. It’s perfectly normal. I explain “off-label prescribing” in a new opinion piece at the Washington Examiner, the news hook being the recent flap about chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine as possible treatments for COVID-19. A related Twitter thread is here as well as here, and here’s our earlier coverage of off-label prescribing.
Also related, this recent line from Scott Alexander is so apt: “Just like the legal term for ‘not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt’ is ‘not guilty’, the medical communication term for ‘not proven effective beyond a reasonable doubt’ is ‘not effective'”.
- Telemedicine has become a crucial tool during the crisis. 2017 paper discusses the regulatory barriers that had constrained it [Shirley Svorny, Cato Policy Analysis; earlier here, here, and here]
- “Wondered why it’s been so hard to ramp up production of surgical masks and respirators? Why haven’t private companies flooded into the market to meet peak demand? Because they are regulated medical devices and new versions require FDA approval which can take months to obtain.” [Paul Matzko thread on Twitter]
- Asking former health care workers to “dust off their scrubs” and return for the emergency raises possible liability exposures [Lori Rosen Semlies, Wilson Elser] “Coronavirus could affect med mal rates: Experts” [Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance]
- A closer look at certificate of need laws, which suppress hospital bed supply [Eric Boehm, related audio clip with Jeffrey Singer, earlier and more]
- More on the relaxation of occupational licensure in medical jobs during the emergency [Michael Abramowicz, Jeffrey Singer, earlier]
- Return with us now to those days not so long ago when public health specialists seemed to be in the paper every day inveighing against alcohol, dietary choices, and such like [Elaine Ruth Fletcher, Health Policy Watch last year on World Health Organization (WHO) rumblings against alcohol; JAMA on furious fight over red-meat recommendations]