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Center for Policy Research

Policy Brief

COVID-19 Mortality Rates were Higher in States that Limited Governments from Enacting Public Health Emergency Orders

Xue Zhang, Mildred E. Warner, and Gen Meredith

C.P.R. Policy Brief No. 6

August 2023

State and local governments enacted various public health emergency policies during the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in lower infection and death rates than would have occurred without these policies. However, some states limited emergency public health authority of state executives, state governors, and state and local officials during the pandemic. This brief summarizes the results of a study that used data from the Center for Public Health Law Research and Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker to explore which states passed laws that limited emergency public health authority during the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of those limitations on COVID-19 death rates. The study finds that states with unified Republican control were more likely to limit emergency authority during the COVID-19 pandemic and that limiting emergency public health authority was associated with higher COVID-19 death rates.

CPR Policy Briefs present concise summaries of findings from recent research conducted by CPR affiliates in the areas of crime and the law, economic wellbeing and poverty, education, energy and the environment, families, health, public finance, social welfare, urban and regional economics, and other policy-relevant domains.

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