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Scope of CDC Authority Under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act

CRS Report – Scope of CDC Authority Under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), April 13, 2021: “Since the beginning of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, all levels of government have grappled with how to stem the spread of the disease. Until the recent authorization of several COVID-19 vaccines, community mitigation activities(such as social distancing and use of face covering), combined with traditional tools of communicable disease control(such as testing, contact tracing, quarantine,and isolation)—have been the primary strategies used to reduce or prevent COVID-19 transmission. Under the United States’ federalist system, states and the federal government share regulatory authority over public health matters, with states traditionally exercising the bulk of authority in this area.Consistent with this framework, states and localities have been at the leading edge of the United States’ pandemic response in many respects. For instance, to varying degrees, they issued mandates aimed at promoting the relevant public health measures, including temporary stay-at-home orders, restrictions on public gatherings, requirements to wear face coverings under specified circumstances, and quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers. Because adherence to some of these measures—particularly ones that place restrictions on business operations—resulted in income losses for their residents and businesses, states have also issued orders aimed at alleviating the pandemic’s associated economic impact. For example, many states temporarily halted evictions or provided other housing support to assist households that have experienced pandemic-related income losses that rendered them unable to pay rent. The federal government’s pandemic response to date includes providing support to states through guidance, technical assistance, and funding, as well as providing certain direct assistance to private entities and individuals, including through several pandemic relief legislations…”

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