There’s a too-little talked about outcome of all this rush to develop anti-COVID-19 measures in the health world, and in both government and private sectors, and it’s one that goes like this: If a self-described coronavirus mitigation product or action fails to do as promised, or worse, actually causes harm to a citizen or group of citizens, there’s no mechanism for accountability.
There’s no means of suing.
The government has exempted itself and all its willing COVID-19 product-developing partners from any sort of liability for mistakes, misconceptions, misunderstandings about proper usage — from anything that could come back to bite. How so?
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, or PREP Act, that’s how.
That’s the measure that gives the Health and Human Services secretary the authority to declare certain entities off-limits to legal liabilities during times of national crises — like COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“The Secretary’s March 17, 2020 Declaration (‘COVID-19 Declaration’) provides certain individuals and entities (‘Covered Persons’) with immunity from suit and liability under federal and state law against ‘all claims for loss caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting form the administration to or the use by an individual of a covered countermeasure’ … except for willful misconduct,” according to a post from JD Supra.
What a free-for-all for the COVID-19 opportunist, yes?
And they serve for both private businesses and government.
Test positive for COVID-19 despite wearing a face mask advertised as a protection against the coronavirus? Too bad; the manufacturer cannot be touched. Too bad; the governor issuing face mask mandates cannot be touched. Too bad; the grocery store enforcing the unconstitutional face mask orders from the governor cannot be touched.
Swallow a pill the pharmaceutical industry comes up with and sells as a means of strengthening immunity to fight off the coronavirus — and suffer devastating medical side effects? Too bad; so sad.
Watch a family member who was abiding a government order die from COVID-19? Again, too bad; so sad. Move on; there’s nothing to see here — certainly nothing to sue.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have sent thousands of elderly coronavirus patients to their COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes around the state.
But he won’t pay for it.
Neither will the nursing homes.
From The Guardian: “As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful healthcare industry group suddenly poured more than $1m into a Democratic committing backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The power of granting immunity is a wonderful thing.
And now we have a rush to develop a vaccine before the end of the year that will stop the spread of the coronavirus? That, as industry best-practice and government guidelines dictate it takes between 10 and 15 years to develop a single safe and effective vaccine.
“Currently,” JD Supra reports, “Covered Persons [under this PREP Act] are afforded immunity through October 1, 2024.”
That’s four years of free-for-all COVID-19 countermeasure product design, production, marketing and sale without all that pesky shadow of accountability, liability and lawsuit. That’s four years of government actions and orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
If Cuomo is an example of what’s to come, Americans need to be on high alert.
With PREP, it’s clear: The priorities are Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Government — the private citizens last.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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