For years, scientists and epidemiologists have warned policy makers and the public that it is only a matter of time before a lethal influenza strain capable of rapid human-to-human transmission re-emerges. Then COVID popped up as a test run. The response? In the U.S., backlash against COVID restrictions is now resulting in a hobbling of public health officials and their budgets, reducing communities' abilities to respond to the next pandemic.
"When the next pandemic sweeps the United States, health officials in Ohio won’t be able to shutter businesses or schools, even if they become epicenters of outbreaks. Nor will they be empowered to force Ohioans who have been exposed to go into quarantine. State officials in North Dakota are barred from directing people to wear masks to slow the spread. Not even the president can force federal agencies to issue vaccination or testing mandates to thwart its march. ... At least 30 states, nearly all led by Republican legislatures, have passed laws since 2020 that limit public health authority, according to a Washington Post analysis of laws collected by Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press as well as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University. Health officials and governors in more than half the country are now restricted from issuing mask mandates, ordering school closures and imposing other protective measures or must seek permission from their state legislatures before renewing emergency orders, the analysis showed. The movement to curtail public health powers successfully tapped into a populist rejection of pandemic measures following widespread anger and confusion over the government response to covid. Grass-roots-backed candidates ran for county commissions and local health boards on the platform of dismantling health departments’ authority. Republican legislators and attorneys general, religious liberty groups and the legal arms of libertarian think tanks filed lawsuits and wrote new laws modeled after legislation promoted by groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative, corporate-backed influence in statehouses across the country. ... The result, public health experts warn, is a battered patchwork system that makes it harder for leaders to protect the country from infectious diseases that cross red and blue state borders. 'One day we’re going to have a really bad global crisis and a pandemic far worse than covid, and we’ll look to the government to protect us, but it’ll have its hands behind its back and a blindfold on,' said Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. 'We’ll die with our rights on — we want liberty but we don’t want protection.'"
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: