NY Court Denies Injunction for COVID Data Under Biosurveillance Law

On Friday, in the Southern District of New York, Judge Victor Marrero ruled that a federal law mandating that the Department of Health and Human Services issue data on biosurveillance — efforts to gather data imperative to monitor, prepare, and plan for pandemics or epidemics — by 2023 failed to provide grounds for a private organization to receive a certain type of information about the COVID-19 pandemic via request for a writ of mandamus or a preliminary injunction. 

Two organizational plaintiffs — a charter school and nonprofit “address(ing) homelessness (and) HIV/AIDS” — sued the federal government, arguing that the law required the defendant to immediately release data showing the government’s preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic — including the current supply of related medical supplies and blood, accurate information on pandemic deaths, spread by city or town, and tests conducted per state. The plaintiffs argued that without such data, the parties stood to suffer irreparable harm as the plaintiffs remained unable to serve the needs of the vulnerable members within each plaintiff-organization during the present pandemic. 

The defendant disagreed with the plaintiffs, averring that the organizations lacked the “concrete, particularized or imminent injury” necessary to prove the irreparable harm required for injunctive relief, as the act explicitly stated that any data ordered under the law was not due until September 2023. The court held that the defendant’s argument possessed legal merit and denied the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction. The court also noted that, absent the statutory grace period of the Bio Act, the plaintiffs’ action likely remained unsuccessful “in light of the fact that none of the outstanding reports (required by the Bio Act) are directly related to (the COVID-19 pandemic).”

The plaintiffs are represented by Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans and Ballard Spahr