Toussaint ’86 aids in providing PPE during pandemic

Tamra Thompson Toussaint ’86’s knowledge of legally compliant ways of breaking regulation roadblocks helped Georgia obtain personal protective equipment (PPE) and keep its citizens safe and healthy.

This spring Toussaint provided legal and strategic insight to a working group for three major Georgia hospitals who were facing critical shortages of PPE. That group had a direct line to the Governor’s Coronavirus Taskforce as well as to the White House.

She was contacted by a former client who knew she had dealt with regulatory compliance for masks, gloves, gowns, respirators, soaps, and hand sanitizers as a former vice president and deputy general counsel at Kimberly-Clark. Toussaint’s former client needed her input on the supply chain issues, including the fact that some companies were willing and able to create and supply the items, but did not have the proper regulatory approvals in place to do so. Normally, gaining those regulatory approvals would have been a 1- to 4-year regulatory process.

“I devised a pathway to educate lawmakers about legally compliant ways of breaking the roadblocks, significantly shortening the process, and focusing efforts on groups most able to quickly and effectively help move the ideas through the Governor’s office, and state and federal government,” she said. “The other guiding principle of my advice had to include immunity from fines and prosecution for the companies in the manufacturing and supply chain by government regulatory bodies for creating PPE that did not strictly comply with all federal regulatory requirements.”

Tamra Toussaint '86
Tamra Toussaint ’86

This is part of a series of stories on Cornellians responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toussaint said the legal profession is adapting to the pandemic with a good deal of trial and error. It’s not uncommon to see masks in the courtroom, Zoom trials for civil cases, and socially-distanced juries. Some challenges remain, including how to handle one’s constitutional right to “confront your accuser” in times when it may not be safe to do so.

“Education of lawyers and clients has been very fast and at the top of most people’s and companies’ priority lists,” Toussaint said.

While at Cornell, Toussaint majored in politics, philosophy, and classical studies.

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