Published this week in the Washington Post, this sobering article surveys the dismantling of our nation’s patchwork public health infrastructure, driven by a backlash to COVID pandemic restrictions. Positioning themselves as defenders of freedom, a coalition of conservative and libertarian activists, legislators, and judges have neutered many of the nation’s public health authorities. State health officials and governors in over half the country are now unable to issue mask mandates or order school closures without the permission of their state legislatures.
While the implications for a hypothetical “next COVID” are dire, we’re already seeing the consequences today: officials in Columbus, OH can no longer, for example, quarantine a child with measles, or shut down a restaurant experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak.
The Gist: The anti-public health backlash in the wake of COVID has now been codified, with far reaching consequences for future disease outbreaks. COVID protections for hospital-based healthcare providers are winding down, even in states like California which quickly embraced masking.
But now in over half the country, many reasonable responses to unknown future health threats won’t even be on the table, or will involve debate and legislative action, wasting precious response time.