Monday, July 26, 2021

Killing Them Off

It seems that certain states run by Republicans have devised a sure-fire method of voter suppression.

Across the country, GOP lawmakers are rallying around the cause of individual freedom to counter community-based disease mitigation methods, moves experts say leave the country ill-equipped to counter the resurgent coronavirus and a future, unknown outbreak.

In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates. Some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the virus. And in its recent rulings and analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to limit disease mitigation in the name of religious freedom.

“The legal framework has evolved in ways that will complicate and perhaps undermine efforts to deal with the next public health crisis or even routine health threats,” said Wendy Parmet, director of the Northeastern University Center for Health Policy and Law, who also said she has been a “long critic of emergency laws and their potential for abuse.”

A key issue, Parmet and others say, is that the legislative backlash is based on partisan assumptions about this pandemic, limiting states’ options in the face of a new threat.

“Whatever your feelings are about what health officials did in March of 2020, I can talk to you about a future threat that might be different, that would disproportionately affect a different population, that you would feel differently about,” said Lindsay F. Wiley, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University and an expert on emergency reform. “Please don’t constrain authority as a reaction in a way that will tie officials to the mast for a future crisis.”

Public health crises usually affect the poor and members of under-representative communities, which means that the states are basically putting up roadblocks to rapid treatment and assistance to them. Ironically, it’s always been the Republicans who complain about government bureaucracy and red tape that hinder “personal freedom.” Now they’re going to use them to kill off the people who most likely need it the most, and most likely can be counted on to vote for the Democrats.

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