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Professor Gatter Named to St. Louis County Health Department COVID-19 Response Team

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page tapped Professor Rob Gatter of Saint Louis University School of Law’s Center for Health Law Studies to assist the county health department with reviewing and drafting policies aimed at fighting the spread of COVID-19.

A nationally recognized expert in public health law and pandemic preparedness, including quarantine legality, Professor Gatter is helping the county reassess procedure for issuing quarantine and isolation orders. His first task was to review Missouri statutes and regulations as well as the St. Louis County Charter and Ordinances to identify existing legal standards for quarantines.

Professor Rob Gatter
Professor Rob Gatter speaks at the Center for Health Law Studies annual symposium.

“Though St. Louis County Health officials clearly have the authority to order individuals into quarantine or isolation to prevent the spread of an infectious disease,” Gatter said, “it appears that none of the sources of law provided adequate standards or legal procedures to implement the County's authority effectively. 

"This is an unprecedented moment in modern public health. ... I'm happy to be of service."

Gatter was recommended for the role by Cora Faith Walker (Law '09), the director of policy for St. Louis County. Walker formerly served on the SLU LAW faculty as the Health Law and Policy Fellow for the Center for Health Law Studies.

“It is encouraging to see our local government reaching out to our experts and wanting to use evidence-based policies that protect both public health and civil liberties,” said Sidney D. Watson, the Jane and Bruce Robert Professor of Law and director of the Center for Health Law Studies.

Gatter and colleague Professor Ana Santos Rutschman co-authored an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on March 14 offering additional recommendations for formal quarantine orders during the novel coronavirus public health crisis. Santos Rutschman specializes in intellectual property and innovation in the life sciences, especially with regard to vaccines and other biotechnologies, health care blockchain, e-health and artificial intelligence in medicine.

Read more about the Center for Health Law Studies

Listen in as Professor Gatter talks quarantines during the Ebola crisis