Why a lawsuit?
Concerned Coalition first began as a group of worried parents asking for their elected representatives to protect their children and communities by requiring masks at school. But we quickly realized that these officials were ignoring the evidence and the advice of their public health experts and pandering to a small group of extremists.
Many Utahns don’t realize that the “Endgame” legislation and associated bills took the power to make public health decisions away from public health departments and gave it to county governments and the legislature. A county government can instantly overturn any public health order, regardless of the evidence behind such a decision. And as we saw in the 2022 legislative session, the legislature will take it upon itself to overturn local orders even when they have the support of the people affected and the local government.
As a result, though public health departments are technically able to issue any public health order they want, doing so has become politically unfeasible. Our public health experts are unable to act on the best evidence and knowledge to protect our communities.
That’s why Concerned Coalition filed a lawsuit: to undo the unconstitutional power grab by the legislature and put the power back in the hands of experts who follow the evidence.
Would the lawsuit force schools to mandate masks?
No, winning the lawsuit would not force any particular public health outcome. The goal of the lawsuit is to return the decision-making power to where it belongs: public health officials. Those officials would then be empowered to do what is necessary to protect our communities, without worrying about political fall-out.
Mask mandates may be controversial, but who should make them is less so. A recent poll shows that Utahns believe that public health decisions should come from state or local health departments, not from politicians with little or no scientific knowledge.
Does the decline of Covid cases make the lawsuit irrelevant?
Even though the wave of the current variant of Covid-19 may be declining, the changes the legislature made to our laws have permanently weakened our public health system’s ability to deal with future waves. Current case numbers are still as high as last fall and the virus is continuing to mutate. It is entirely possible another variant will sweep through our community. Our public health officials should be empowered to act to protect our communities from future waves of Covid-19 as well as other future pandemics.
These bills have also weakened the separation of powers enshrined in Utah’s constitution by giving legislative leaders the ability to enforce laws, a power that properly belongs to the executive branch. Regardless of the decline of the Covid pandemic, these changes need to be reversed to protect the integrity of Utah’s government and the effectiveness of our public health institutions.