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15 states move to curtail public health powers after COVID-19 overreach

A May 2021 report detailing the legislative efforts of 15 states to cut back the power of public health agencies notes that 'other states may consider such legislation in the future.'
Thu Jun 17, 2021 - 4:44 pm EST
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June 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Legislatures in at least 15 U.S. states have passed or are currently considering measures to crack down on public health agencies in the wake of the agencies’ unprecedented use of power during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a May report from the Network for Public Health Law (NPHL) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) — neither organization is in favor of the laws — the new state legislation will sharply check the authority of public health officials to unilaterally enact specific measures which restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens during a public health emergency.

“In recent months, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering measures to limit severely the legal authority of public health agencies,” the report says, adding that “other states may consider such legislation in the future.”

A sampling of the laws described in the report include those which would:

  • prohibit requiring masks (North Dakota)

  • remove the power of the governor to force the closure of businesses (Kansas)

  • ban quarantine orders (Montana)

  • forbid state hospitals and universities to require vaccines for students and employees (a new law in Arizona blocks vaccine requirements except in K-12 school settings, imposing criminal penalties for violations)

  • block local health agencies from acting in a manner inconsistent with the orders of the state health department or the governor (Texas)

  • impose time limits for emergency orders (a new Florida law requires the automatic expiration of local emergency orders after 7 days, or 42 days with a majority vote for extension, and goes on to ban any substantially similar orders for the same emergency)

  • return power to the legislature (an Ohio law will give the legislature power to block or halt edicts issued by public health agencies)

The NPHL and NACCHO report claims that the new laws are apt to “lead to preventable tragedies.”

“Specifically,” the document reads, “this report finds that dissatisfaction and anger at perceived overreaches by governors and public health officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an onslaught of legislative proposals to eliminate or limit the emergency powers and public health authority used by these officials.”

The document doesn’t discuss the “preventable tragedies” which already resulted from last year’s public health measures themselves, which radically disrupted the lives of citizens by putting millions out of work, shutting down private businesses, damaging the supply chain, canceling important life events, and keeping children out of school. Crushing restrictions placed upon everyday life since early 2020 have led to surging rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and even suicide attempts by the very young.

A recent report published by the CDC found that last year “the proportion of mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents aged 12–17 years increased 31% compared with that during 2019.”

According to the CDC report, “In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ED visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents aged 12–17 years, especially girls. [From] February 21 [until] March 20, 2021, suspected suicide attempt ED visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt ED visits increased 3.7%.”

While the NPHL and NACCHO report argues that public health agencies should continue to be empowered to issue requirements and place restrictions on public life at their discretion, studies have repeatedly shown the inefficacy of public health measures like masking, social distancing, and lockdowns, which have resulted in unprecedented social harm.

A new study conducted by statisticians at Munich University found “no direct connection” between Germany’s lockdown and decreasing COVID-19 infection rates, demonstrating that “lockdowns may have had little effect on controlling the coronavirus pandemic” according to The Telegraph.

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The May 2021 NPHL and NACCHO report lays the responsibility for the laws at the feet of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative legal group interested in promoting federalism and limited government.

“ALEC is advocating a slate of policy initiatives and model bills crafted to limit the authority of public health agencies and weaken their ability to protect the public’s health,” the document reads.

“ALEC’s nationally coordinated campaign focuses on curtailing emergency powers of executive branch state and local government officials and public health agencies, and shifting emergency and public health authority to the legislative branch, including state Legislatures and local legislative entities such as county commissioners.”

The NPHL is a legal organization which ostensibly promotes issues pertaining to public health, however its reach arguably goes farther than addressing solutions to communicable disease or issuing dietary guidance. Recently, it declared that “racism is a public health crisis,” and published an issue brief entitled “A Strategy to Transition Rapidly Away From the Use of Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas.”

Similarly, the NACCHO is a Washington-based lobby group which recently put out an online course for public health department staff which teaches that the “fundamental cause of health inequities” is “social injustice.”


  government overreach, national association of county and city health officials, network for public health law, public health

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