Missouri bill limiting virus restrictions advances, draws mixed emotions

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - The Missouri House passed a bill on Tuesday that would prevent the state and local governments from implementing any restrictions on businesses, churches or other non-public entities during public health emergencies, except in certain circumstances.

“Throughout the pandemic it has been clear that government and government mandated responses to the pandemic has just been quite a debacle in a lot of places,” Rep. Ben Baker, a Republican from Neosho who sponsored the bill, told KY3 on Wednesday.

Supporters say requirements we have seen over the past year take away from personal choice. Health leaders on the other hand say it would make it hard for them to protect people.

”We’re going to see, if this legislation is to move forward pretty devastating impacts to the health and safety to our community,” Springfield-Greene County Acting Health Director Katie Towns said.

Towns and other health leaders worry it would take away tools they need for emergencies like COVID-19, ones they say required much thought and effort.

”We have created, worked with our partners, worked with our lawmakers and worked with our decision makers to create a very well balanced approach to this,” she said.

Others say such rules went too far and caused serious damages to businesses.

”Placing unequal burdens on people with varying circumstances, so for one person maybe it wasn’t a big deal as far as economically or whatever to shut down, but for somebody else it was devastating,” Rep. Baker said. “They shut their doors and to never reopen.”

The measure also would ban the state and local governments from ordering someone to quarantine unless they are definitely infected. Towns said this is another major concern to medical experts.

”You can’t see touch or feel disease spread,” she said. “We don’t know then if that person who comes into contact with them will develop that disease or not.”

Towns said she feels the legislation also comes at a bad time.

“This is probably not the method we needed to have sort of in front of us as were are still navigating the exit strategy and this whole entire response,” she said.

Limitations could only be enacted if the state, counties or cities face disease outbreaks of “significantly greater prevalence” than other areas. Elected officials would decide if that is the case, and residents could sue if they disagree with those decisions.

This bill would also protect businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits. It will become law if the bill passes the Senate, and is signed by Governor Parson.

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