School Closure Implementation during the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic

Starting in April 2009, the world saw its first 21st-century global microbial outbreak, the pA(H1N1) influenza pandemic. Working with the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the Center for the History of Medicine conducted systematic qualitative research on the American response to the pandemic, focusing on the most widely used non-pharmaceutical intervention – school closures.

Our research team gathered extensive data on school closure use in U.S. cities and conducted several dozen oral history interviews with key leaders in public health and education in order to understand better the issues and obstacles surrounding the implementation of such orders.  We concluded that state and local health departments should develop and fine-tune pandemic response action plans, work more closely with education officials to better understand the myriad complexities involved in closing schools, and should seek to resolve the lingering jurisdictional issues of legal authority for school closures in times of public health crises.

Our research was published in 2016 in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, and can be accessed here: