Public Health Nurse-Topic 6- Assignment- Public Health Laws and Ethical Implications

 Public Health Nurse-Topic 6- Assignment- Public Health Laws and Ethical Implications

Public Health Laws and Ethical Implications

Public health laws and regulations are often passed in response to human-caused or natural disasters or the spread of an infectious disease or other health epidemic. Select a law or regulation that was passed after a significant public health event or in response to an epidemic. In a 1,250-1,500 word paper, discuss the public health law or regulation and describe its impact on a community, including its ethical implications. Examples could include laws/regulations targeting smoking, obesity, healthy mothers and babies, vaccinations, etc. Include the following:

Introduction with an overview of the law/regulation, why it was passed, and how it was or is being implemented on the local, state, and/or federal level.

  1. A discussion of who the law/regulation targets and how they are being impacted.
  2. An evaluation of the efficacy of the law/regulation. Include evidence demonstrating whether it is or is not working.
  3. A discussion of the law/regulation’s ethical implications-Do you think this law is fair and ethical in natural? It is being applied ethically/fairly? Were/are there any unforeseen/unintended consequences to be considered?

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.






Public Health Laws and Ethical Implications


Public health laws highlight the authority that different levels of government and various jurisdictional levels have in improving the health of the general population within societal norms and limits (Burris et al., 2016). Most of the time, public health regulations and laws focus on responding to the spread of infectious diseases, health epidemics, all-natural and human-caused health disasters (Burris et al., 2016). However, one of the most recent public health laws in different jurisdictions across the U.S. and the world has been related to the Covid 19 pandemic. Since the declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of January 2020, numerous countries and jurisdictions rushed to enact public health laws to prevent their populations from the raging outbreak. This paper explores the public health laws that the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted to combat the spread of covid-19 and the impact that such laws had on the community, including the ethical implications.


On March 7th, 2020, Virginia confirmed its first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case (Virginia Department of Health, 2021).  Covid-19 is an illness that is caused by the novel coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, as a respiratory disease outbreak (Shereen et al., 2020). The World Health Organization first reported the disease on December 31st, 2019, and subsequently declared covid-19 a global health emergency on January 30th, 2020. Eventually, WHO declared covid-19 as a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020(Shereen et al., 2020). By March 12th, 2020, Covid-19 cases in Virginia had doubled, which led the governor to declare a state of emergency and eventually trigger the Virginia emergency operations center. The declaration of the state of emergency by the governor of Virginia began the development of statewide public health laws to control the spread of covid-19(Virginia Department of Health, 2021).

The subsequent public health laws in Virginia included a ban on gatherings of more than ten people and closing all public schools and public recreational and entertainment areas such as gyms, bowling alleys, and theaters. The ban on gatherings order in Virginia also included the closing off dining and congregation area such as restaurants, food courts, farmers markets and only left essential retail businesses open such as banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores (Virginia Department of Health, 2021). The public health laws to control Covid 19 in Virginia also included a stay-at-home order in which all individuals were prohibited from interacting with people that were not close family members and to stay and work at home whenever necessary(Virginia Department of Health, 2021).

Through the state of emergency declaration, the public health laws in the state of Virginia also included a mask mandate. All residents of Virginia above the age of 5 were therefore required to cover their mouth and nose at all times with a mask following the guidelines provided by the CDC(Virginia Department of Health, 2021). The Virginia Department of Health was also allowed to enforce the mask mandate and pursue the necessary fine and punishment for those who violated these mandates. The state of Virginia also provided few exceptions where people were allowed to remove their masks (Virginia Department of Health, 2021).

The public health laws to prevent the spread of covid-19 in the Commonwealth of Virginia also included the following CDC-provided guidelines. This included the practice of frequent hand washing, physical distancing, staying at home when sick, and frequent disinfecting surfaces that are routinely touched in public settings(Virginia Department of Health, 2021).

Finally, the public health laws in the state of Virginia suspended non-emergency surgery such as Dental, endodontic, and orthodontic, which would not result in any harm to patients if they were not performed on time and utilized personal protective equipment. Therefore, the suspension of such surgeries was meant to improve the availability of personal protective equipment to healthcare practitioners who were helping to fight Covid- 19(Virginia Department of Health, 2021).

Target Audience

The Covid -19 in prevention laws in Virginia targeted all people across the population, including children, adults, and elderly people. The social distance in laws prohibited any public gatherings and greatly limited social interactions across the population. In addition, the public health laws required every member of the population to stay at home as much as possible and only go out for essential goods or services. All members of the public were also required to wear their masks in public places and always keep a physical distance from others. This further discouraged social interactions (Bergquist et al., 2020).

The Covid-19 pandemic prevention laws enacted in Virginia had significant social and psychological effects across the population. The most affected groups psychologically included children and college students. The public health laws enacted to prevent the spread of covid-19, therefore, lead to the separation of loved ones and the loss of freedom (Saladino et al., 2020). The public health laws also led to an increase in a feeling of helplessness and created uncertainty related to the advancement of the disease. These aspects lead to dramatic consequences across the population, such as increased stress and anxiety and behavioral changes among children. (Kumaravel et al., 2020). Parents also reported being stressed and anxious, especially due to the economic strife that resulted from lockdowns.

On the other hand, most children reported feeling bored, restless, and irritable, and a sense of loneliness which contributed significantly to behavioral changes (Kumaravel et al., 2020). The public health laws enacted to prevent the spread of covid-19 also played a significant role in the prevalence of depression and loneliness among elderly people. As elderly people were at the highest risk of adverse outcomes after contracting Covid 19, many measures were enacted to seclude them from other populations, such as reducing visits to nursing homes. Most elderly people complained of being lonely and feeling depressed as a result of not being able to see their loved ones during the covid-19 pandemic (Guner et al., 2020).

Efficacy of the Law/Regulation

The efficacy of the Covid in prevention protocols enacted by the state of Virginia, which included statewide lockdowns, social distancing protocols, and mask mandates, can be evaluated by examining a reduction in infection rates during the period after the laws were enacted. After the enactment of covid19 prevention protocols, the cases in Virginia reached an average of nearly 1,500 cases per day in May and eventually reduced to an average of 1000 cases daily for the whole of 2020(Virginia Department of Health, 2021).   This showed that the statewide Covid-19 prevention laws effectively curbed the spread of the disease in a state with a population of around 8.5 million people. The overall prevalence of Covid 19 in Virginia remained low compared to other states. The suspension of Covid-19 prevention laws and protocols in December 2020 led to a significant spike in infection rates in January, with the highest rate of infection reported to be 9900 cases (Virginia Department of Health, 2021). The spike in cases in January 2021 highlighted that the public health laws that had been enacted, including statewide lockdown and social distancing protocols in Virginia, were effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Ethical Implications

The Covid -19 prevention protocols in the state of Virginia, which included statewide lockdowns, social distancing protocols, and mask mandates, were ethical because they followed the ethical principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice (Conti, 2018). Related to the ethical principle of justice, the Covid -19 prevention protocols were universally adopted across Virginia with no exemptions. The fair enactment of the Covid 19 prevention protocols encourages cooperation with the general public, who viewed the rules as non-discriminatory (Virginia Department of Health, 2021). On the other hand, the Covid -19 prevention protocols in the state of Virginia were meant to prevent adverse outcomes, including death across the population and among vulnerable groups. Such rules would therefore benefit and help preserve public health through the principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence. However, there were unintended consequences of Covid19 prevention protocols in the state of Virginia, including a significant contribution to anxiety, loneliness, and depression. The social and psychological consequences of enactment of covid-19 prevention protocols should have been considered before their implementation.


In summary, the Covid 19   prevention protocols in the state of Virginia, which included statewide lockdowns, social distancing protocols, and mask mandates, had both positive and unintended negative outcomes on the population. The public health laws limiting social interactions and requiring to wear a mask in public places limited the spread of covid-19 and helped protect the health care facilities in the state from being overwhelmed by large proportions of patients requiring care. The community prevention protocols also helped to limit the spread of the disease and allowed scientists to develop effective vaccines. However, the public health laws enacted to prevent the spread of covid-19 also had negative psychological and social consequences, including an increase in stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression.


Bergquist, S., Otten, T., & Sarich, N. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Health Policy and Technology, 9(4), 623–638.

Burris, S., Ashe, M., Levin, D., Penn, M., & Larkin, M. (2016). A Transdisciplinary Approach to Public Health Law: The Emerging Practice of Legal Epidemiology. Annual Review of Public Health, 37(1), 135–148.

Conti, A. (2018). Ethics in public health. Journal of Public Health Research, 7(3).

Guner, R., Hasanoglu, M., & Aktas, F. (2020). COVID-19: Prevention and control measures in community. TURKISH JOURNAL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES, 50(SI-1), 571–577.

Kumaravel, S. K., Subramani, R. K., Jayaraj Sivakumar, T. K., Madurai Elavarasan, R., Manavalanagar Vetrichelvan, A., Annam, A., & Subramaniam, U. (2020). Investigation on the impacts of COVID-19 quarantine on society and environment: Preventive measures and supportive technologies. 3 Biotech, 10(9).

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Shereen, M. A., Khan, S., Kazmi, A., Bashir, N., & Siddique, R. (2020). COVID-19 infection: Emergence, transmission, and characteristics of human coronaviruses. Journal of Advanced Research, 24, 91–98.

Virginia Department of Health. (2021). Coronavirus. Virginia.Gov.