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A woman holds an anti-mask and vaccine placard outside a meeting of the Volusia County School Board in Deland, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Republican lawmakers in more than half of U.S. states have weakened state or local officials' authority to implement policies to protect the public against the coronavirus and other infectious diseases, AP and Kaiser Health News report.

The big picture: Since the coronavirus pandemic began, lawmakers in all 50 states have introduced bills to curb state and local officials' public health authority, a KHN review found.

State of play: The review found that 26 states have passed such laws, and in three additional states, executive orders, ballot initiatives or state Supreme Court rulings have limited public health authority, per AP.

  • In at least 16 states, lawmakers have limited public health officials' powers to mandate masks, quarantines or isolation.
  • At least 17 states have passed bills banning vaccine passports or mandates.
  • At least nine states have laws banning or limiting mask mandates. In another five, mandates are limited by executive orders.

Zoom in: In Arkansas, the state legislature passed a bill banning mask mandates — a measure Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he regrets signing into law.

  • In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed an executive order banning mask mandates in schools, even as coronavirus cases increased in the state over the summer. Many school districts have defied the order.
  • Idaho county commissioners, most of whom do not have a health background, can veto county public health requirements, per AP.

What they're saying: "We really could see more people sick, hurt, hospitalized or even die, depending on the extremity of the legislation and curtailing of the authority," Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told AP and KHN.

The other side: Those in favor of the limits argue they are "a necessary check on executive powers," AP writes, citing Republican lawmakers.

Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay — Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data.
  2. Health: 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising — Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID.
  3. Politics: Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers — Axios-Ipsos poll: 60% of voters back Biden vaccine mandates.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 15, 2021 - World

EU pledges 200 million vaccine doses to Africa, low-income nations

Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the bloc would donate an additional 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Africa and low-income nations, AP reports.

Why it matters: The new donation, slated to be delivered by the middle of next year, comes as confirmed cases of the coronavirus have reached 225 million globally.

17 hours ago - Health

Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are one of the fastest-growing populations, yet data collection on the community at the federal and state levels remains "virtually nonexistent," according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

Why it matters: In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget mandated the disaggregation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander data from the broader "Asian" category. Yet two decades later, over 30% of federal data sources fail to provide disaggregated NHPI data, a gap that's more pressing than ever due to the pandemic, researchers say.