Most states have cut back public health powers amid pandemic

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FILE – In this Tuesday, June 29, 2021 file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson talks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson, called a special legislative session in early August 2021, asking lawmakers to carve out an exception for schools in a bill to ban mask mandates. They declined. The law is currently blocked by an Arkansas judge who deemed it unconstitutional. Legal battles are ongoing in other states as well, including Missouri, where a St. Louis County mask mandate is in dispute. (AP Photo/Andrew Demillo)

A review of hundreds of pieces of legislation across the United States shows that Republican legislators in more than half of the states are taking away the powers state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases. The review conducted by Kaiser Health News, or KHN, also found that in all 50 states, legislators have proposed bills to curb such public health powers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While some governors vetoed bills that passed, at least 26 states pushed through laws that permanently weaken government authority to protect public health.

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