Professor Lawrence Gostin on Mask and Vaccine Mandates

Professor Lawrence Gostin on Mask and Vaccine Mandates

Read Time: 2 Minutes

On August 10, GLG hosted a roundtable entitled Vaccine and Mask Mandates: Public Health Response to COVID-19 featuring Lawrence Gostin, O’Neill Professor of Global Health Law and Faculty Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Professor Gostin also directs the WHO Center on National and Global Health Law.

During the roundtable, attended by select GLG clients and hosted by GLG’s Michael Weissman, Professor. Gostin discussed vaccine and mask mandates, travel restrictions, and the possibility of future lockdowns. All this was in context of the latest COVID-19 news both globally and domestically in the U.S. Prior to this conversation, GLG had the opportunity to ask Professor Gostin a few questions.

As of July 29, a total of 16 U.S. states and territories have a type of mask mandate that requires some degree of face covering while in public fora. How do you see this number changing over the next one, three, or six months? What advice would you give officials around implementation? How successful do you think mask mandates can be when so many are “mask exhausted”?

Gostin: It is likely we will see more mask mandates as cases spike due to the delta variant. CDC has also changed its guidance, which will encourage more mandates. It is likely that mandates will widen for the next one to three months but not thereafter. At the same time, I expect to see a drop in cases due to increased vaccination coverage.

Uber, Disney, Walmart, and Tyson Foods are just some of the earlier adopters of vaccine mandates for corporate employees. How do you think these and others will fare both in the courtroom and in public opinion?

I feel confident that these mandates will be upheld by the courts, as stated by the Department of Justice and EEOC. I also think there will be large public acceptance of businesses’ mandates, although there will continue to be a small portion of workers and unions who will oppose it.

In New York City, the mayor recently implemented a vaccination requirement for those who want to dine indoor at restaurants, go to live events, and work out at gyms. Essentially, this amounts to a vaccine mandate if people want to conduct their lives as “normally” as possible. What do you think about this? How difficult will enforcement likely be?

My Daily Beast op-ed published yesterday [see below] answers this question. I am highly supportive of NYC’s proof-of-vaccination system. NYC has a digital platform and is also using the Excelsior Pass [ed note: the Excelsior Pass provides a free, fast, and secure way to present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results], so it should be implementable.

Come 2022, where do you see the trend of vaccine and mask mandates in the U.S.? 

I am hopeful that by the first quarter of 2022 we will be in a much better place. Much will depend on how high we can get with vaccine coverage. [To emerge safely from this pandemic] we will need to be a highly vaccinated community, approaching 85% or more.


Professor Gostin also provided GLG Insights readers with free and open links to recent opinion articles he has written:

Vaccine Mandates Are Lawful, Effective and Based on Rock-Solid Science, Scientific American, August 5, 2021

Key to NYC Health Pass, Daily Beast, August 4, 2021

The Case for Vaccine Mandates and Proof of Vaccination Systems, Smerconish.com, July 23. 2021

Proven ways to boost Covid-19 vaccination: mandates plus nudges, STAT, July 22, 2021

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