The Department of Health apparently doesn’t see coronavirus going away any time soon. It is asking the Legislature to keep covid-19 on the books as a disease giving the Department the power to seek court orders to enforce health orders.
On Veto Day last year, the Legislature passed 2020 House Bill 1295, an emergency bill that added covid-19 to the list of diseases (tuberculosis, MERS, SARS, smallpox, and viral hemorrhagic fevers, plus other diseases declared to be public health emergencies) for which the Department may ask courts to enforce its orders on individuals infected or “reasonably suspected” of being infected. The 2020 Legislature set that covid-19 power to expire on July 1, 2021. Nine months later, with coronavirus exceeding the death toll Governor Kristi Noem predicted for South Dakota back in April, the Department of Health would like to keep its enforcement authority for this pandemic. 2021 Senate Bill 3 would strike the sunset clause and leave covid-19 in SDCL 34-22-18.1 indefinitely.
Coronavirus definitely hasn’t gone away. Neither has the need for all of us to mask up, stay home, and do everything else that our Governor recklessly counterexamples. Strike that sunset clause, and let’s start working on some bills to more actively assist those fighting this pandemic.