Thursday, January 13, 2022

State legislatures' pandemic precautions — or lack thereof — reflect gap between libertarians and public health

State legislatures' pandemic precautions for lawmakers — or lack thereof — "highlight a persistent partisan gap in pandemic policy as states begin a third year of legislative sessions amid a virus outbreak that many had assumed would be waning but is instead surging to near peak levels of hospitalizations because of the Omicron variant," David Lieb reports for The Associated Press. "As lawmakers in some Democratic-led states meet remotely because of renewed Covid-19 concerns, their counterparts in many Republican-led legislatures are beginning their 2022 sessions on a quest to outlaw vaccine mandates and roll back pandemic precautions.

For example, in Democrat-led Washington state, most House business this week was conducted remotely. Anyone who wants to step onto the House floor must get a coronavirus test three times a week and show proof of full vaccination and booster shot. "By contrast, Missouri’s Republican-led legislature began a fully in-person session with no Covid-19 screening at the Capitol and no requirement to be vaccinated or wear masks," Lieb reports. "One week into their session, lawmakers already have filed nearly three dozen bills banning, discouraging or providing exemptions from vaccination requirements."

Resistance to vaccination, masking, and/or mandates for either is mostly rooted in libertarian ideology, Lieb reports, quoting Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association: “In many ways, the data around vaccines, masks and all these things is kind of bearing out as a proxy for the role of government. . . . We have in effect pulled into two different camps with two different views of reality.” Benjamin sees an “intellectual schism” that is unlikely to be bridged and is “very disturbing. We have in effect pulled into two different camps with two different views of reality.”

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