419: ASTHO’s NC Amicus Brief, PAHPA Hill Hearing

Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, explains an amicus brief ASTHO filed in a North Carolina court case; Jeffrey Ekoma, ASTHO’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, reports on progress with the reauthorization of the Pandemic...

Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, explains an amicus brief ASTHO filed in a North Carolina court case; Jeffrey Ekoma, ASTHO’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, reports on progress with the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act; Dr. Mark Levine, Commissioner of Health at the Vermont Department of Health, says that COVID-19 has become like many other infectious diseases; and a new ASTHO report tells you how to connect Health in All Policies strategies with State Health Improvement Plans.


ASTHO statement on Amicus Brief

ASTHO Comments on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act

WHO Declares Covid-19 Pandemic Emergency Over

Making the Connection Between Health in All Policies and State Health Improvement Plans

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, May 12, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



It is very rare for ASTHO to file an amicus brief in state court. This is the second brief we have filed in the past eight years.


It's been a long time since ASTHO weighed in on a local case; but Maggie Davis says this one where a North Carolina business has sued the state claiming lost revenue due to a public health order is cause for concern.


The concern our members have expressed and expressed in this brief is that if this were to move forward and a business can sue a health official and get money damages for closing their business to abate a public health nuisance, that it will make it harder or less likely for public health officials to take the action needed to prevent the spread of disease.


There were other remedies, according to Davis.


The appropriate remedy we have argued in our brief would have been an injunction to the order. And in the North Carolina case, the health official's order was upheld by the court. So that is what's making it a very odd case that our members felt very strongly that they needed to speak to.


Given the scope of the claim, how far could this case go? Davis says it's early in the process.


So at this stage of litigation, the court is asking the legal question—so this is a review of whether or not legally the business can sue the health department for money damages. Should the North Carolina Supreme Court say yes, it will go back to a trial. So there has not been a factual finding of economic damages against the health department.


ASTHO has released a statement announcing the filing of its amicus brief. You can read it using the link in the show notes.


More discussion on Capitol Hill in recent days about reauthorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act. ASTHO's Jeffrey Ekoma is here today to tell us all about it in a view from Washington, D.C. report.

Jeffrey Ekoma, welcome to the newscast.


As always, a pleasure to be with you, Robert.


Likewise. You've been on the show before and we've talked a lot about the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act—it's also known as PAHPA on Capitol Hill. Were there any developments regarding the act this week?


There actually was a really big development late last week. So there was a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and it included testimony from three federal witnesses. So, one being Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O'Connell, CDC director Dr. Walensky, and the FDA commissioner Dr. Califf. And there were a couple of interesting themes in the hearing.

So for starters, there was an overall bipartisan agreement on the importance of strengthening public health systems and supply chain in preparation for future emerging threats in natural disasters. There was also some interesting but really fruitful discussions around the importance of accurate public health data, how to measure the number of countermeasures that are currently under BARDA and the importance of domestic innovation. Republican members on the committee, they focused a good amount of their time on how to better incentivize breakthrough drug development and the impact of lockdowns on an individual's mental health. Our Democratic members were really interested in better understanding the impact of regional partnerships, public health infrastructure, and how to better support state public health systems.

So we understand from staff on the health committee that they're still reviewing responses to an RFI that ASTHO responded to that we talked about in the past. So we're looking forward to the next steps on the committee.


So that hearing was about a week ago. You say looking forward--what are we thinking is next?


So, looking forward, Congress is really on a really good pace right now, with the authorization of PAHPA. So we know that this week the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing that included the same witnesses from the Senate Health Committee to talk about the reauthorization of PAHPA, and we look forward to really getting in depth to what the things are from that hearing next week.


That seems like enough. But is Congress doing anything else that ASTHO members might need to know about?


Of course they are. I mean, Congress and the administration, they're both still in active negotiations related to the debt limit, which we talked about in great detail here. The President and Speaker McCarthy, House Minority Leader Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell—or what they're known as the Big Four around here—they met earlier this week to continue those negotiations.

Now, although a readout of the meeting is really not fully clear, we know that they're scheduled to meet again this morning to further those discussions as we get closer and closer to the X date, or the date in which it's expected that the U.S. will default on its financial obligations. So it's really important.

I also want to note that there are less than six working days in the month where the House and the Senate will both be in session together, so it just makes things a little bit tighter as we hopefully get to a good finish line here.


Never a dull moment on Capitol Hill. Jeffrey Ekoma, thank you for giving us this report. We'll look forward to hearing from you next time.


Thank you so much.


You can download ASTHO's letter to lawmakers using the link in the show notes.


Also today, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine tells the Wall Street Journal that COVID-19 has become like many other infectious diseases. After three years dealing with the virus, he says the public has left the pandemic behind them. You can read the story by clicking on the link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, a new ASTHO report tells you how to connect Health in All Policies strategies with your state health improvement plans. Visit the show notes where you can find a link to download the document.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Maggie Davis JD MA PMP

Director, State Health Policy, ASTHO

Jeffrey Ekoma

Senior Director, Government Affairs, ASTHO