As the world marks one year of this historic pandemic, COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high, with the latest surge in the United States prompting a pronouncement from CDC Director Robert Redfield that Americans are facing “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.” With more than 22 million cases logged and more than 375,000 deaths in the United States, Stanford Lawyer Magazine looks at 2020 through the lens of health policy officials on the ground in Santa Clara County, California, and health law experts who share insights into the government’s response. This in-depth article also offers hope that science—and unbiased scholarly research—can help curtail the rising toll of COVID-19.
“Many of us involved in population health have heard the call and been devoting enormous amounts of time and energy to this. In a sense, it is our moment,” said David Studdert, a professor of law at the law school and professor of medicine at Stanford Health Policy. “And there’s been a pressing need to have a range of legal concepts and policy concepts explained to the community, ideas that Michelle and I have devoted our careers to.”
Michelle Mello, also a professor of law and medicine, notes that research and publications in their field have skyrocketed since March.
“There’s been an explosion of innovation, both in the academic sector and private sector," she said. "It’s really unprecedented, the amount of good science that has gone on,” says Mello. “Over 77,000 articles on COVID have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals this year. That’s incredible. Hopefully more innovations with testing, therapies, and the vaccine will follow.”
And Sara Cody, director for the Public Health Department in Santa Clara County, emphasizes that relationships between policymakers and health law academics need to be nurtured. “The fabric of these relationships has to be built over time. And in a crisis like this, they turn out to be very important,” she said.