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DeGroot: Politicians should not be deciders of public health orders

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Do want your chances of survival linked to the common sense of politicians? If this makes you nervous, you should pay more attention to HB127.

If HB127 becomes law, the governor will be able to hire and fire the state health officer who might then be reluctant to offer needed advice. The bill also requires any orders issued by the state health officer be renewed by the governor after 10 days. There is a similar provision in the bill requiring local governing bodies to review local health officer orders after 10 days. In addition, the bill allows local governments to override statewide orders that impact healthy individuals. This could include mask orders, closure orders, capacity orders, etc.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Eric Barlow, has made a big point of trying to separate powers that impact infected people from powers that impact healthy people. To that end, the bill gives public health officials continued control over infected people, but politicians would decide what is best for the healthy population.

A huge problem with the bill centers around the concept of “healthy”. Just because someone appears to be healthy, doesn’t mean they are disease free. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many asymptomatic carriers. The main purpose of the statewide mask mandate and capacity orders has been to limit the spread of the disease via these asymptomatic carriers.

Allowing politicians in 23 counties to override statewide orders is potentially very problematic. It would be like having 23 holes in a dike and allowing each county to decide how/whether to plug them. In today’s mobile society, major problems could be created if even one county falls short. An infectious disease is not a case of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

HB127 has passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee. It will now head to the full senate to be heard three times.

We encourage you to contact your senator and tell him/her NOT to vote for this bill. If it passes the Senate, the governor should veto it.

Earl DeGroot, MS, MPA, Retired Management Consultant

Donna Griffin, RN, MBA, Retired Director of Public Health Nursing for State of Wyoming


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