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Kansas Bill Seeks to Curb State Power to Manage Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Dr. Mark Steffen, from his campaign website

Sen. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson, has introduced a bill that could significantly limit the state’s capacity to manage infectious diseases. According to the Kansas Reflector, Senate Bill 391, pushed forward by Steffen, an anesthesiologist criticized for endorsing unproven COVID-19 treatments, proposes to strip state and local health officials of their quarantine enforcement powers. This move comes amidst Steffen’s broader critique of the state’s pandemic response, overseen by Governor Laura Kelly and health authorities.

The bill suggests removing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s (KDHE) ability to declare infectious diseases, which would also end mandatory disease reporting by healthcare providers. Moreover, the Secretary of Health and Environment would transition to an advisory role, recommending disease prevention strategies to the Legislature without the authority to enact them.

Ashley Goss, KDHE’s deputy secretary, warned that such changes could “undo hundreds of years of public health work,” highlighting the essential role of current measures in controlling disease spread. KDHE’s analysis predicts dire consequences for disease monitoring and outbreak management, exemplified by the costly implications of forgoing quarantine during a 2018 measles outbreak.

Steffen’s rationale for the bill reflects a broader distrust in vaccination efficacy and skepticism towards public health mandates. He dismisses concerns over diseases like measles by attributing their presence to unvaccinated individuals, vaccine imperfections, and undocumented immigrants—a claim debunked by health experts who point to international travel as the primary cause of U.S. outbreaks.

Additionally, Steffen has introduced Senate Bill 390, advocating for conscience-based vaccine refusal rights for individuals against employer or institutional mandates. This legislative effort aligns with a growing trend of vaccine skepticism, despite overwhelming evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness.