During an emergency, laws serve crucial functions, including clarifying responsibilities, authorizing critical interventions, and protecting vulnerable populations. However, provisions of existing laws designed for normal, non-emergency circumstances may sometimes hinder emergency response efforts, thereby potentially endangering the public's health rather than protecting it. Pursuant to declared states of emergency, disaster, or public health emergency, however, the legal landscape changes in several important ways. Interventions not legally permissible under non-emergency circumstances become available. One key example is authority to temporarily waive legal provisions that may impede emergency response efforts, such as professional licensing requirements, facility capacity limitations, pharmaceutical pedigree obligations, and state contract restrictions, among other laws spanning a host of legal spheres.
This article examines the structure and use of waiver authority in emergencies. It provides recent examples of waivers and analyzes potential application to a hypothetical emergency scenario.