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ASU professor says public health protection trumps civil liberties

Supporters and members of Patriot Prayer and Peoples Rights Washington rally against the Washington state mask mandate outside Vancouver City Hall on June 26, 2020 in Vancouver, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — In a legal battle between protecting public health and free speech, one Arizona State University professor thinks the former would win.

Some have argued and protested against mandates enforcing masks in public, that they violate the First Amendment and civil liberties.

“These claims are baseless,” said James Hodge, director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy.

He adds the government must protect people by limiting COVID-19’s spread.

“The government has sufficient, compelling interest to limit the spread of a disease like COVID-19 that does kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and will continue to do so absent intervention,” Hodge argued, even if it means shuttering the economy — which cost livelihoods the first time Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) did that in the spring.

“You could either close it down again to assure social distancing, or perhaps we can find a balance of a reopened economy with Americans wearing masks,” Hodge said.

The CDC’s guidance this month says masks — cloth or surgical — can stop COVID-19’s spread.

Arizona health leaders will need another week to assess that after municipalities mandated masks a week ago.

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