Late-night deal rewrites Kansas public health laws on masks and vaccines

While bill backers argued the bill was a must after what they felt was drastic government overreach during the pandemic, the bill’s application to infectious diseases beyond just COVID-19 alarmed some lawmakers.

By

State News

May 5, 2022 - 5:25 PM

Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence, says he didn’t want to wear a mask or get a vaccine, but “I also didn’t want my fellow citizens to die from an infectious disease.” (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — In the waning hours of the veto session, the Kansas Legislature approved a rewrite of the state’s public health laws, disregarding bipartisan concerns the bill was too restrictive.

After weeks of conversation and modifications to proposed legislation, Senate Bill 34 came together shortly before the House and Senate debated the bill. The response to government actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic targets mask mandates, quarantine orders and vaccination requirements.

For example, no governmental body or public official can mandate face masks to prevent the spread of any infectious disease. Certain health care professionals, like surgeons, would be exempt from this restriction, but nursing home employees could not be required to wear a mask.

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