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Health

Wyoming House To Consider More Limits On Public Health Officers

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Wyoming Legislature
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The Wyoming House Corporations Committee voted to advance a bill that would place limits on the power of public health officers.

The committee was presented with four similar bills and selected Speaker of the House Eric Barlow's bill, House Bill 127, to move forward with. It would allow a public health officer to initially create a public health order for 10 days but then any continuation would require approval of the governor or a local governing body.

Barlow said his bill looks to more clearly separate the public health officer's power in quarantining people who are ill versus orders that affect the greater local or statewide community, like closing businesses or limiting public gatherings.

"I say we leave disease with the actual health professionals, and we deal with prevention of transmission in a political manner," he said.

The bill would also change statute so the state public health officer would be appointed by the governor. The state officer would work both under the director of the Wyoming Department of Health and the governor, and either could remove the officer from their position. Currently, the director of the Wyoming Department of Health selects the state public health officer.

Some who testified before the committee said they would like to see a review of how the state handled the pandemic before making any changes to the law.

Jerimiah Rieman, executive director of the Wyoming Association of County Commissioners, said that the state's commissioners acknowledge something needs to change, but they believe a review would better equip them to know what works and what doesn't.

"We got to the point of, we could sit here and debate every single one of these [bills] for hours with my members, and [they] elected to say, 'Let's put our eggs in the basket in a comprehensive review alongside of you, and put all these things in that basket and go from there," he said.

A bill that would create the pandemic review taskforce is up for debate in the Senate.

House Bill 127 will next be debated on the House floor.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

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