May 15, 2020 10:20AM

SCOTUS Once Again Reschedules (Most Of) Its Qualified Immunity Cases

As Yogi Berra famously said, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about qualified immunity.” Or something like that. Two weeks ago, I discussed how the Supreme Court had scheduled thirteen different cert petitions for its May 15th conference. Several of these petitions had been fully briefed and ready for resolution since last October, so it looked like the Court was finally gearing up to confront the fundamental question of whether qualified immunity should be reconsidered entirely.

George Will further discussed that development this week, describing how qualified immunity “has essentially nullified accountability for law enforcement and other government officers” and urging the Supreme Court to “rethink the mistakes it made regarding qualified immunity.” He also noted how the Cato‐​led cross‐​ideological amicus briefs filed in several of the major cases “represent[] an astonishing ideological diversity” and “have helped to bring qualified immunity’s consequences to the attention of the court.”

But it looks like the Court may be preparing to punt on this question yet again. In the last few days, the Court has rescheduled ten of the thirteen cases that were originally set to go to conference today. (“Rescheduled” here is a bit of a misnomer, because the Court hasn’t yet indicated when they’ll actually consider these petitions — it’s more like an indefinite postponement.) The cases that got rescheduled include all three petitions that explicitly ask the Court to reconsider qualified immunity, and in which Cato organized or filed cross‐​ideological amicus briefs — those three cases are Baxter v. Bracey, Zadeh v. Robinson, and Corbitt v. Vickers. Thus, it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer to learn whether the Court intends to take up this question.

Curiously, however, the Court did not reschedule the cert petitions in Kelsay v. Ernst, Jessop v. City of Fresno, or Clarkston v. White, which means those petitions will go to conference today. It’s honestly hard to say why the Court would want to make a decision about the petitions in these three cases, but not any of the others. The petitions in Kelsay and Jessop both raise important questions about clarifying and reining in the worst excesses of the “clearly established law” standard, but then, so do the petitions in some of the other cases that got rescheduled. It’s possible that the Court wants to start with some of the narrower QI questions, short of reconsidering the doctrine entirely, and prefers one or more of these three cases as vehicles. Or it’s possible that, for whatever reason, the Court is confident about denying cert in these three cases, but wants to continue the other cases at a future date. It’s also possible that there’s no real rhyme or reason to this decision, and the Court might simply “relist” one or more of these three cases, which would have the same practical effect going forward as rescheduling them.

In short, we really can’t say with confidence why the Court made the scheduling decisions it did this week, nor is it at all clear what will come out of next Monday’s orders with respect to these three cases. But two things do remain certain: first, the Court is paying very close attention to its qualified immunity docket, and second, qualified immunity is desperately in need of reconsideration.

May 15, 2020 10:14AM

Private School COVID-19 Permanent Closure Tracker — May 15, 2020

Last week Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom posted the first list of private schools across the country that have announced that they are permanently closing their doors because the COVID-19 economy has made it financially impossible for them to continue operating. This week the list includes 18 schools, up from 11 last week. Note that rather than representing new announcements from the previous week, almost all of the additional schools are closings that were announced before the first list was published but were brought to our attention afterward.

Private School Closure List 5/15/2020

Note also that the closure of 10 schools in the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, were announced last week – 9 diocesan schools and the archdiocesan‐​sponsored Cristo Rey Newark High School. None of the diocesan schools appear on the list because the decision to close them was made prior to COVID-19. The decision to close Cristo Rey Newark, however, was made at least in part because the COVID economy has likely rendered the school’s financial model unsustainable.

The list is expected to grow as schools learn more about the impact of the economic downturn on enrollment and income for the coming school year. As a reminder, we will post an updated list on Cato’s blog every Friday, but if the list reaches 100 schools we may transition to an online, searchable format. You can contact CEF director Neal McCluskey if you need more current numbers, if you know of permanent closures not on the list, or if you believe schools have been listed by mistake. We also welcome suggestions for improving the list.

May 14, 2020 5:11PM

Stores That Reopen Face ADA Compliance Puzzles

Around much of the country retail stores and small businesses are struggling with how to reopen, or carry on operations online, consistent with public health recommendations on social distancing and protection of customers and workers. And as they do they find their task complicated in many ways by the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and related state laws. So I conclude from an advice column by Minh Vu and John Egan of the law firm Seyfarth Shaw. Some questions:

* Can you make customers wait outside, and if so how? Under one format commonly approved for reopening, stores must close all but one entrance and have someone watch that entrance to make sure the number of customers does not exceed a given capacity. Once the maximum is reached, customers waiting for admittance need to stand outside in distanced lines. Unfortunately, under the ADA, if only one of multiple entrances is accessible, that one must be used, even if it’s hard to watch, isn’t good for spacing people out, or is exposed to the rain. “Customers with physical disabilities who cannot stand for long periods may ask to go to the front of the line as a reasonable modification. Businesses may be reluctant to allow this as the claimed disability may not be obvious and the request may be fraudulent.”

* Can you take customers’ temperatures before letting them in? Some big U.S. employers already use non‐​contact forehead temperature guns to check arriving employees for fever, and in places like Singapore such methods are also common for customers entering stores. Although the devices have been criticized as unreliable and they don’t catch everyone who’s contagious, they may improve the odds of avoiding in‐​store spread of the novel coronavirus. But the ADA exposes you to legal risk if you use them:

Title III of the ADA does not allow public accommodations to impose or apply eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying any goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.

You might try to take refuge in one of two exceptions, one that excludes from relevant protection someone who “poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others,” and another that permits “legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.” The “direct threat” exception, however, requires “an individualized inquiry into whether a specific person poses a direct threat” and courts have been very stringent with businesses that try to use it. They’ve also been strict with the “necessary for safe operation” defense. Do you think you might get sued on the grounds that forehead guns can’t really be a requirement of safe use if some of your competitors aren’t using them? Yes, you just might.

* What kind of seating will you leave in place? To reflect capacity constraints, many sit‐​down businesses such as restaurants find it best to remove a portion of their tables and seating. Careful about this reshuffling, or it could get legally expensive once you find that you no longer have the required proportion of seating with “a work surface that is between 28” and 34” above the ground, with clear space underneath that is at least 27” high, 17” deep, and 30” wide.”

* How do you move service online? This will be the biggest headache of all for countless small operators who have moved personal services online — tutors, coaches, counselors of all sorts. For more than 20 years now Congress has determinedly refused to clarify when and how online services must provide web accessibility enabling blind, deaf, and fine‐​motor‐​challenged computer users to access all the same services as others. Freelance private lawyers have already sued many thousands of businesses both large and small over alleged web accessibility violations — it takes just one cooperative client to launch a hundred suits or more — and settlements in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars are common. Note one problem here with a law that is enforced, by design, by private lawsuits: no official regulator can lift the requirements to reflect the COVID-19 emergency, as is often possible with, say, trucking or occupational‐​licensure rules. Maybe one local ADA lawyer will decide to be reasonable and not sue over a website hastily thrown together in March by a small business trying to keep some revenue coming in during shelter in place. That’s no reason a second lawyer has to hold back.

We’ve covered ADA compliance headaches in many earlier posts (some links in this post). In March, we noted how disabled‐​schooling statutes were complicating the effort to move K-12 education online in response to the pandemic.

May 14, 2020 12:08PM

Don’t Ban H-1B Workers: They Are Worth Their Weight in Innovation

The Trump Administration is reportedly working on an executive order to ban the issuance of new H-1B visas. His order is expected to be issued before the end of this month. His order would be quite a negative blow to the U.S. economy and hit American economic innovation the hardest. The H-1B visa system has problems: It’s unreasonably costly to change firms, workers are restrained from starting their own firms, and the wait times to adjust their status to a green card are absurdly long. Complete H-1B worker portability between firms, allowing workers to sponsor themselves if they start a firm, and reducing the backlog, as well as other reforms, need to be implemented. But ending the H-1B visa is not the way forward and will hurt American innovation especially.

H-1B visas are for highly skilled workers in specialty occupations. They have to make a minimum of $60,000 a year. Annually, 85,000 are available to U.S. firms with an additional uncapped number available for non-profit research institutions, universities, and governments. Many workers who get an H-1B visa start as students in an American university, adjust to an H-1B visa, and eventually earn an employment-based green card – but often with obscenely long waits. H-1B workers primarily labor in STEM and computer occupations.

H-1B workers have an especially big impact on American innovation. New technology and knowledge allow for more efficient machines and production processes that increase nationwide productivity. Highly skilled migrants on H-1B visa, as well as those on other visas and green cards, directly increase the production of knowledge through patents, innovation, and entrepreneurship. These effects are localized and diffuse throughout the country.

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May 13, 2020 4:00PM

Reflections on “The American Perception of Substate Threats”

Editor’s note: In 2014, Cato released A Dangerous World? Threat Perception and U.S. National Security, an edited volume of papers originally presented at a Cato conference the previous year. In each chapter, experts on international security assessed, and put in context, the supposed dangers to American security, from nuclear proliferation and a rising China, to terrorism and climate change.

As part of our Project on Threat Inflation, Cato is republishing each chapter in an easily readable online format. Even six years after its publication, much of the book remains relevant. Policymakers and influencers continue to tout a dizzying range of threats, and Americans are still afraid. We invited each author to revisit their arguments and offer a few new observations in light of recent events. The first of these, by Brendan Rittenhouse Green, appeared here last week.

Paul R. Pillar, a non‐​resident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies of Georgetown University, and a non‐​resident fellow of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, provides his thoughts below. His reflections on his chapter are informed by his 28‐​year career in the U.S. intelligence community, and his voluminous writing and research, including his most recent book, Why America Misunderstands the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception (Columbia University Press, 2016), which he discussed at Cato in late 2016.


Prevailing American thinking about substate threats—and more specifically the thinking that shapes U.S. policy—exhibits at least as much of a disconnect between perception and reality as when A Dangerous World? was published six years ago. The policy players and their principal bugbears have changed, but broader patterns my earlier essay identified persist. Perhaps the most glaring demonstration of this persistence is the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan—more than eighteen years after the original intervention, in what has become America’s longest war. A major impediment to withdrawing those troops continues to be the notion of Afghanistan as a unique “safe haven” for terrorists who, because of that haven, are supposedly more likely than they otherwise would be to inflict harm on Americans. The result is an interminable military expedition that in important respects is doing more harm than good.

The evolution of international terrorism during the last six years has challenged other common but flawed thought patterns about terrorism. The biggest development in that evolution has been the rise and, as a territorial entity, fall of the Islamic State or ISIS. This group’s split from, and competition with, Al Qaeda underscore the error of the earlier tendency to treat violent Sunni radicalism as monolithic, with the accompanying habit of applying the label “Al Qaeda” to the whole phenomenon. ISIS’s history also further refutes the thinking about terrorist safe havens. When ISIS had its mini‐​state in Iraq and Syria, it was focused primarily on running and maintaining that entity and less focused on international terrorism than it has been when lacking such a territory.

The Trump administration appears to have centered its threat perceptions more on states than on substate phenomena. Nonetheless, its foreign policies demonstrate some of the patterns identified in the earlier essay, including the tendency to divide the perceived world simplistically into competing camps of good guys and bad guys. A prime example is the administration’s idea of a NATO‐​like security alliance in the Middle East that would unite the United States, Israel, and some favored Arab states against a presumed bad guys’ bloc led by Iran. Nonstate actors such as Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthi movement in Yemen, and some militias in Iraq are placed in the bad guys’ camp because of their association with Iran. The idea hasn’t gotten anywhere partly because it does not correspond to the more complicated lines of conflict and competition in the Middle East.

The administration’s obsession with Iran also illustrates a corollary to a pattern the earlier essay identified regarding perceptions of revolutionary violence and regime change. The pattern is the habitual assumption that regime change in any state the United States currently considers a friend or ally is assumed to be a threat to the United States. The corollary is that any regime change in a state the United States considers an adversary is assumed to be good. Thus, the Trump administration presses on with its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which, in the absence of feasible demands or constructive diplomacy, can only be aimed at collapse of the current Iranian regime. It presses on—and in so doing raises the risk of escalation to a wider war—oblivious to the likelihood that a replacement regime, such as a Revolutionary Guard dictatorship, would be even worse than what Iran has now.

Now the United States and the world are confronting a nonstate threat, in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, that is inflicting death and damage orders of magnitude beyond what was ever inflicted by the substate actors that for years have been the focus of American threat perceptions. Unlike with, say, terrorism, there certainly has been no problem of previously prevailing threat perceptions exceeding the reality. With terrorism, more sober voices have had to point out that in most years more Americans drown in bathtubs than fall victim to terrorism. Even after an outlier event such as 9/11, the casualties have been many times fewer than, say, the number of Americans who die in traffic accidents. But in only a couple of months, COVID-19 has left bathtub drownings in the dust and has killed more Americans than a year’s worth of traffic deaths.

One pattern applicable to other nonstate threats that does apply to the current pandemic is the tendency—a characteristically American tendency—to overstate the newness of a threat. The novel coronavirus may be novel in terms of virology, but infectious disease epidemics certainly are not. Plagues go back to ancient times. A failure to think in such terms is one factor underlying the inadequacy of preparations to deal with the likes of COVID-19.

Some of the U.S. responses to COVID-19 can be attributed to Trump’s habits, such as the flagellation of China as a way to deflect blame and attention away from the administration’s performance. But a more general American tendency is in play as well. COVID-19 is a nonstate threat, but it also is a nonhuman threat. As such, it does not conform well with the way Americans habitually think of their bêtes noires. Americans have long looked for monsters to destroy, but they expect the monster to have a face, in the form of a loathed leader, regime, or substate group. They have difficulty thinking ahead about meeting faceless threats such as a disease or a changing climate.

This is one reason to temper silver‐​lining hopes that the pandemic will get people and their government to think more about threats that are most likely to kill them and less about foreign regimes or groups that are unlikely to do so. Just look at how the Trump administration has continued with its maximum pressure campaign against Iran. As thoughtful and expert observers on both sides of the Atlantic have observed, any nation’s inability to get the virus under control impedes efforts to contain the pandemic globally and thus threatens other nations’ citizens. A prudent step, therefore, would be to ease the U.S. sanctions that are impairing Iran’s ability to contain COVID-19. At a time when tens of thousands of American deaths ought to make control of the pandemic an overriding priority, the Trump administration ignores this advice.

- Paul Pillar, Washington, DC

May 13, 2020 1:40PM

12 New Immigration Ideas for the 21st Century

Today, Cato released a new white paper entitled “12 New Immigration Ideas for the 21st Century.” Edited by myself and my colleague David J. Bier, the essays in this white paper are written by academics, policy analysts, advocates, and smart people from outside of the Beltway who each propose a new and innovative way to reform the U.S. immigration system. Most of the essay contributors participated in a workshop where their ideas were analyzed by other experts, immigration attorneys, and people who have worked on immigration reform on Capitol Hill. Our intent from the workshop was to expose and correct any deficiencies in the proposals and to help improve them. The resulting collection of essays represents the most innovative set of new immigration reform ideas in a single place.

Here is our introduction from the white paper in full:

Congress has repeatedly considered and rejected comprehensive immigration reform legislation over the past few decades. The most bitter debates were in 2006, 2007, and 2013 when comprehensive bills passed one house of Congress and not the other. Those reforms each failed for particular reasons—groundswells of populist opposition, Democratic senators working with Republicans to remove guest worker provisions, or Republican failure to bring it to the floor in the House of Representatives—but the bills were all basically identical.

Those failed immigration reforms all included three policies: legalize illegal immigrants currently living in the United States, increase border and interior enforcement of the immigration laws, and liberalize legal permanent immigration and temporary migration through an expanded guest worker visa program for lower‐​skilled workers. A domestic amnesty for illegal immigrants was supposed to clear the black market and allow those who have made a life here to settle permanently; extra enforcement was supposed to reduce the potential for illegal immigrants to come in the future; liberalized immigration was supposed to boost U.S. economic prosperity and drive future would‐​be illegal immigrants into the legal market.

In theory, this comprehensive approach was supposed to make future amnesties unnecessary by fixing the laws that encouraged illegal immigration in the first place. The bill Congress considered in 2013, the last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform, followed the same model, which is a major reason the bill failed. For instance, the guest worker provisions for lower‐​skilled workers were all clones and the result of negotiations between the same stakeholders.

Liberalizing legal immigration is the most important component of workable, long‐​term reform. The legal immigration system sets and regulates numbers, procedures, and the types of foreigners who can come to the United States from abroad to work, live, and in some cases eventually naturalize. Providing legal paths for more immigrants, either for temporary work or permanent citizenship, is the best way to secure the border and would help provide for the future prosperity of the United States. The government cannot regulate a black market of illegal immigrants, but it can regulate legal immigrants.

Expanding legal immigration is a worthy goal, but there are many ways to accomplish it. The mission of this collection of essays from policy analysts, economists, political scientists, journalists, and advocates from around the world is to provide new policy suggestions that future Congresses could use to liberalize the legal immigration system. We intentionally avoided seeking proposals from the usual stakeholders and included many original ideas that could increase legal immigration or improve the selection of legal immigrants. The essays fall into four broad categories based on how much they would transform the current legal immigration system. The first category includes proposed rule changes that would substantially improve the current system.

In one essay, Daniel Griswold of the Mercatus Center proposes that Congress abolish the static numerical caps on certain visas and instead create a built‐​in numerical escalator that automatically grows the number of visas as employment grows. For example, the number of H‐​1Bs issued would increase as employment in certain high technology sectors increases. Similarly, Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy recommends addressing the extreme wait times that skilled immigrants currently face by guaranteeing them legal permanent residence within five years, essentially replacing numerical quotas with a specific wait time.

The second category of essays includes discussions of adding visa categories to the current system. Many of the ideas in this category are based on older visa programs that have been discontinued, visa programs in other countries, logical extensions to the current U.S. system, or admissions policies in other public institutions, such as military academies.

Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development proposes a jointly regulated migration system with Mexico based on lessons learned from the past and best practices from other bilateral migration programs enacted around the world. Michelangelo Landgrave, a political science doctoral candidate at the University of California, Riverside, proposes a similar policy for Canada based on the principles of reciprocity in work authorization and limited access to welfare, of which, according to survey data, Americans and Canadians alike approve.

David Bier of the Cato Institute proposes state‐​based visas that would allow state governments to accept immigrants based on their diverse economic conditions. In a similar vein, coauthors Jack Graham and Rebekah Smith propose a system whereby local governments would work with private sponsors to bring immigrants into their communities. Both essays highlight the importance of engaging state governments to implement important reforms.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform offers a proposal inspired by the acceptance policies of U.S. military academies. It would allow each member of Congress to sponsor 100 immigrants for legal permanent residence— similar to how they nominate recruits for U.S. military academies.

The third category includes proposed changes that would transform how the current U.S. immigration system works.

George Mason University professor Justin Gest envisions a major overhaul of the selection process for immigrants. Under his system, the government would collect much better data on various immigrant outcomes and track immigrants over time to see how they integrate. It would then assign points for immigrants with certain characteristics that the data show correlate with immigrant success.

Steve Kuhn of IDEAL Immigration proposes selling visas to employers, provided they’ve made job offers to foreign workers and paid the workers premiums that match the cost. Nathan Smith’s proposal would increase the number of immigrants admitted but charge them an extra 20 percent tax on their incomes so long as they reside and work in the United States.

The fourth category and the last two fundamental policy reform ideas come from Robin Hanson, associate professor of economics at George Mason University. His reforms would increase immigration, cause more Americans to profit directly from the immigration system, and provide a way to select immigrants that are more beneficial to the United States.

Hanson’s first essay is similar to Gest’s proposal but relies on a more decentralized decision making process to select immigrants using prediction markets. Under this proposal, the public would place cash bets in an open market on which immigrants would succeed based on objectively measurable criteria such as net‐​fiscal impact. The immigration system would then select those priced the highest. In his second essay, Hanson suggests letting U.S. citizens sell or lease their citizenship to noncitizens abroad in exchange for leaving the country. This would monetize the value of American citizenship and create an asset held by every American.

These proposed reforms are just a few of the new and interesting ideas out there. Hopefully, some will be incorporated into future bills; others could spark new and more creative ways of how to change immigration laws. We don’t endorse every essay in this paper, but the stagnant state of the current debate shows the need for bold new ideas and out‐​of‐​the‐​box thinking that will better prepare us for the next immigration reform debate.

May 13, 2020 10:56AM

CDC Failures: Mission Sprawl Is One Problem

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it “has a unique mission—to save lives by deploying effective, proven strategies to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to disease outbreaks at their source.”

But the CDC was slow to recognize the size of the COVID-19 threat and it fumbled the ball in numerous ways. CDC Director Robert Redfield tweeted January 14 that “there is no confirmed person‐​to‐​person spread” of the illness, and on January 28 he emailed CDC colleagues that “the virus is not spreading in the U.S. at this time.”

A ProPublica analysis found, “Internal Emails Show How Chaos at the CDC Slowed the Early Response to Coronavirus.” The analysis concluded that “the CDC underestimated the threat from the virus and stumbled in communicating to local public health officials what should be done.” Meanwhile, an NPR investigation found that the CDC’s initiative to create an early warning system in selected cities was a flop.

This CDC brochure lauds the agency’s success at battling COVID-19. It says, “An important part of CDC’s role during a public health emergency is to develop a test and equip state and local public health labs with testing capacity.” The brochure does not mention that the CDC’s test failed and that federal actions delayed the deployment of private‐​sector tests.

The CDC and other federal health agencies told the public not to wear masks. The official line was: “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.” The U.S. Surgeon General was insistent about masks: “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”

Why should we spend billions of dollars on health agencies that give us harmful advice?

Some pundits claim that budget cuts were the problem, but the table below suggests otherwise. The CDC workforce increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2019, based on data in CDC budget submissions here and here.

The largest employment increase was in “Global Health,” a group that monitors foreign outbreaks of infectious disease. The group’s employment jumped from 272 in 2010 to 1,263 in 2019. The CDC says the group “supports global efforts to detect epidemic threats earlier, respond more effectively, and prevent avoidable catastrophes.” The agency should have been ready.

CDC leaders may have been distracted because of mission‐​sprawl. The CDC’s 512‐​page budget submission for 2021 reveals a vast and disparate array of activities. What are occupational safety and injury prevention doing in the government’s infectious disease agency?

The CDC highlights its recent accomplishments on pages 18 to 23. How is CDC Director Redfield supposed to remain alert to emerging epidemics when he is also supposed to manage programs on tiny teeth, colon cancer, opioids, child abuse, diabetes, workers’ compensation, lead‐​based paints, mold in buildings, and lifting heavy objects on construction sites?

From the highlights:

“In 2019, CDC launched the Protect Tiny Teeth initiative in collaboration with partners. The initiative includes an oral health toolkit to raise awareness about the importance of oral health as part of prenatal care.”

“As part of the Combatting Opioid Overdose through Community‐​Level Intervention program, CDC expanded efforts to partner with public safety (e.g., law enforcement, first responders) by collaborating with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to fund 25 pilot projects.”

“Using CDC resources, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, a tribal nation in Wisconsin created a media campaign, in collaboration with the Tribe’s Executive Council, targeting the stigma associated with opioid use disorder within the Native American culture.”

“CDC’s Essential for Childhood program recipient states increased the percentage of Community‐​Based Child Abuse Prevention dollars invested in evidence‐​based programs from 24% to 52%.“

“CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program grantees have partnered with over 760 health system clinics that serve over 1.2 million patients age‐​eligible for colorectal cancer screening.”

“As of December 2019, more than 1,500 organizations have received CDC‐​recognition for delivering CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change program…”

“CDC Project 3–3: Children with Asthma is working to identify factors associated with asthma exacerbation in children following the 2017 Hurricanes Harvey and Maria and aims to establish or improve programs to reduce asthma burden among children during and after hurricanes.”

“CDC published a web‐​based data visualization dashboard to explore 1.4 million workers’ compensation claims in Ohio, creating a causation‐​specific injury surveillance system using existing claims databases.”

“CDC’s Data Linkage Program facilitated evidence building which supported policy decisions for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s 2018–2022 Strategic Plan cited findings from the NCHS-HUD linked data files to support the continued removal of lead‐​based paint hazards in HUD homes.”

“Using CDC resources, the CPWR‐​Center for Construction Research and Training, piloted and launched best​built​plans​.org to provide contractors and workers with practical tools, microgames, and information to prevent injuries from lifting and moving heavy materials while staying productive and profitable.”

“In 2019, the Coal Worker’s Health Surveillance Program provided 8,398 chest x‐​ray screening examinations and reviewed 2,758 spirometry test results from its mobile unit and 40 Spirometry Clinics in 11 states.”

“CDC released the Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for both general buildings and schools to help employers identify and assess areas of dampness in buildings.”

In coming months, Congress should reassess the CDC’s budget and consider some of the agency’s failures during the COVID-19 crisis. Policymakers may want to take a pruning knife to the CDC and refocus it on the core mission of infectious disease and epidemics.

In general, less is more with federal agencies. Federal mission‐​sprawl often results in overlaps with state, local, and private activities, and it distracts federal leaders from their core responsibilities.

Dave Kemp assisted with research for this post.