University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review

Document Type



This article focuses on disability law in the context of COVID-19. In dealing with this pandemic, businesses, schools and other covered entities have to navigate and manage (at least) three different categories of people congregating. First are those who act as if there were no pandemic at all; they simply do not care if they are contagious and insist upon not complying with safety precautions, such as mask-wearing and social distancing; second are people who have medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable and at high-risk for severe symptoms associated with the infection; third are people who have already contracted COVID-19, and are currently experiencing symptoms, or have recovered from COVID. The point of this article is to discuss law that protects the second and third groups, especially against the first group. In part I, I identify the special pandemic-focused problems that arise when these groups interact. In part II, I discuss the global and local statistics related to the spread of the virus, especially as they relate to the housing needs and demographics in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Miami, Florida is exemplary because it is the fourth-largest urban area in the United States (U.S.), with a population of approximately 5.5 million, and a density of nearly 4,500 persons per square mile. With daily nonstop flights between Miami International Airport and Paris, Warsaw, Morocco and London, Miami -Dade County is a world-class hot spot for coronavirus, ranking fourth in the U.S. for highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Thus, Miami is a site where we see the three categories of people—mask-less individuals, those who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19, and those who have currently or previously tested positive for COVID—have come unwittingly together, explosively challenging the legal frameworks. In part III, I revisit significant pre-COVID-19 contagion cases for a discussion of historical and recurring problems of discrimination and containment. In part IV, I discuss the role of the state in protecting vulnerable persons against the mask-less. Part V addresses the emerging U.S. Supreme Court COVID-19 jurisprudence in the context of religious freedom, which I argue are arguably contagion non-containment cases. Part VI concludes that state “contagion law” and federal disability law can be understood to work together to keep everyone safe, especially during a pandemic.