By DAVID A. LIEB Associated Press
Pandemic policies were being put to the test Tuesday in several states where ballot measures sought to rebuke or affirm actions taken by officials trying to fight COVID-19.
The virus-related measures were among two dozen ballot proposals in six states that also include new constitutional rights for residents to grow their own food or enjoy clean air and water.
In Texas, one constitutional amendment would prohibit governments from limiting religious services. It’s a backlash to public health orders in some large cities and counties that restricted the number of people who could gather indoors at the onset of the pandemic.
Another Texas amendment would create a constitutional right for residents in nursing homes and other group-living facilities to designate an “essential caregiver,” who could continue to visit even if the general public is barred from the facility. The amendment would add heft to a similar law enacted earlier this year in Texas.
Like his counterparts elsewhere, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott barred nursing homes from admitting visitors as COVID-19 cases surged in facilities last year. The precaution, which lasted for months, was intended to save lives. It also left elderly residents unable to connect with family and friends.
“Besides the tragedy of very sick people and death, the saddest story that we heard from our constituents was the fact that they could not see their mother, their father, their grandfather, their grandmother, their aunt, uncle, brother or sister in the nursing homes,” said Texas state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican who sponsored the amendment. “It was just something that really just tore at our hearts”