Focus Areas | COVID-19

PHR advocates for a science-driven approach to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We defend the right of all people to have access to health care and stand with medical professionals on the front lines of this crisis.

As the world battles the rapid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, health professionals are our guiding lights. PHR stands with doctors, nurses, public health specialists, and others on the front lines of this pandemic. PHR and our community of health professionals are working quickly to strengthen the world’s response to COVID-19, and to better prepare for what lies ahead.

Here is how PHR is responding:

Standing with Health Professionals on the Front Lines

Now, more than ever, governments must heed the sound guidance and recommendations of public health specialists: politics should never get in the way of ensuring the health or safety of our communities. We are listening to health professionals’ analyses, amplifying their voices, and urging elected officials to act on their recommendations. PHR and our network of experts are demanding that politicians and world leaders help resource health professionals and protect all of us during this time.

Defending the Fundamental Right to Access to Health Care

Even in times of crisis, everyone has the right to adequate medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, or disability. PHR is proud to stand with the dedicated health professionals working around the clock to care for those in need.

Advocating on Behalf of Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border and in U.S. Custody

The tens of thousands of migrants who are being forced to wait in Mexico or are being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention are living in overcrowded or confined settings, unable to “self-quarantine” or to exercise the “social distancing” advised by health authorities. They face extremely high risks from a worsening COVID-19 outbreak. PHR is demanding that state and federal authorities reverse their decision to shut down the border to asylum seekers and address the acute vulnerability of people in detention centers by urgently releasing migrant detainees. We are also working to identify the barriers to health care that undocumented communities face under the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies and practices. Read here how we are protecting migrants amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Highlighting the Vulnerability of Conflict-affected Countries

The spread of COVID-19 poses an extreme threat in countries where communities are threatened by conflict, instability, or by government oppression of minorities, where fighting has decimated health systems, and civilian populations have been pushed into dangerously crowded internally displaced or refugee settings. Through our longstanding partnerships and health professional networks, PHR is amplifying the voices of frontline clinicians and first responders in Bangladesh – where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar live precariously – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen, among others, which face daunting challenges as COVID-19 spreads across their borders.

Blogs and Statements

A Science-driven Approach to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 Shows Us Why We Should Keep ICE Out of Hospitals


Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis While Protecting Asylum Seekers

COVID-19 and Immigration Detention

Events and Webinars

On March 27, 2020, PHR Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Ranit Mishori spoke with Dr. Joshua Lerner, an attending emergency department physician at the University of Massachusetts Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, in an exclusive briefing about working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The conversation focuses on the increased dangers for health workers, their patients, and their families from shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), the need for concerted action from the U.S. government, corporations, and the public to increase the supply of PPE, and what individuals can do to support the health workers on the front lines of this crisis.

On March 19, 2020, PHR medical director Dr. Michele Heisler held a Q&A with science writer and founder of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Health Program Laurie Garrett. The discussion addresses how governments and health professionals can fight the coronavirus while preserving human rights.

Select Media

United States

  • The Hill: Risk behind bars: Coronavirus and immigration detention
  • Al Jazeera: Thousands of ICE detainees at high risk amid coronavirus pandemic
  • The Washington Post: Coronavirus could pose serious concern in ICE jails, immigration courts
  • The Guardian: Coronavirus inevitable in prison-like US immigration centers, doctors say
  • WBUR: Thousands Of Immigrant Kids Are Detained, Far From Their Parents. They Need Protection From COVID-19, Too
  • Voice of America: COVID-19 in US Migrant Detention Sites ‘Just a Matter of Time’


  • NBC News: Coronavirus could cause ‘carnage’ among the world’s refugees, aid groups say
  • The Intercept: Yemen’s health care system, battered by war, braces for coronavirus
  • The Washington Post: As epidemic menaces refugee camps, the Middle East’s most vulnerable face a deepening nightmare
  • Reuters: Weakened by War and Hunger, Yemen Braces for Coronavirus


Immigration Detention and COVID-19 Declaration