by Emory Professor Polly Price

Plagues in the Nation, forthcoming from Beacon Press, is a narrative history of America through major outbreaks. The book examines how law and government affected the outcome of the epidemics that struck America, and how those outbreaks have in turn shaped our government. Using the story of the efforts to contain Ebola and COVID-19, Polly Price presents a fascinating history that has never been fully explored.

Polly J. Price, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, is also Professor of Global Health in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Latest stories

Face Covering Requirements: Progress and Regress in the battle against covid-19

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Heartening news from Alabama—Governor Kay Ivey ordered face coverings be worn in public, an emergency measure to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus there as the state reached a new record daily death toll. A recognition in the midst of a still unfolding disaster that face masks work. Short of shelter-in-place orders or further business closures, face masks are in fact the only thing that...

Interstate Travel, Interstate Virus

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Ahead of the July 4 weekend, Chicago and Pennsylvania announced new travel quarantine measures for arrivals from 15 states, joining New York’s recent order aimed at travelers from states where out-of-control spread of the the coronavirus threatens other parts of the nation. NPR aired a thought-provoking segment just before the holiday period began, leading with “If you’re...

Face-Covering Requirements and the Constitution

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On the American Constitution Society blog, Patrick Diaz and I examine the question “in an emergency, can state or local governments require the general public to wear face coverings?”. The article concludes that the Supreme Court has—and lower courts should—entrust the politically accountable branches with protecting public health and safety.

Carnegie Fellow Polly Price on How Governments Confront Pandemics like Covid-19

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This article on the Carnegie Corporation web site provides background on the book Plagues in the Nation. The article describes how I first studied public health issues, starting with the spread of the Ebola virus in the United States. The panic over Ebola led to missteps by political leaders, with several governors squabbling publicly with the federal government about who was in charge. Sound...

WE ARE BACK TO MAKING OUR OWN MASKS

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As I recently wrote in The Atlantic, during the 1918-19 pandemic flu, the Surgeon General of the U.S. could do little more than urge state and local governments to close schools and prohibit large gatherings. But then-U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue also urged Americans to make face masks and wear them in public. Newspapers printed instructions, and the American Red Cross produced thousands of...

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