Opinion: Vaccine mandate news — and a disturbing lack of news

Elizabeth Hovde believes this will be an excellent week for Gov. Jay Inslee to announce the end of an outdated mandate that mistreated workers and discriminates against future ones.
Elizabeth Hovde believes this will be an excellent week for Gov. Jay Inslee to announce the end of an outdated mandate that mistreated workers and discriminates against future ones.

Elizabeth Hovde believes this will be an excellent week for Gov. Jay Inslee to announce the end of an outdated mandate that mistreated workers and discriminates against future ones

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

A May 1 press release from the White House announced that the Biden administration has started the process to end COVID-19 vaccine rules placed on health care facilities receiving Medicaid and Medicare. A vaccine mandate on federal employees, contractors and international air travelers is also coming to an end on May 11,  the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

“We are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary,” the White House says.

A story in the Boston Herald today reported that Boston’s controversial, contested COVID-19 vaccine mandate on city workers will also end May 11. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration sounded a lot like the Biden administration, explaining that the “public health landscape has changed considerably.”

I hope governments left and right seize this opportunity to hop on the federal bandwagon, if they have outdated, misguided COVID-19 vaccine mandates on employment. That way, they might be able to save some face for keeping the mandates around for so long. The mandates brought no demonstrable public health benefit, while harming individuals and hurting public workforces. (Ferry cancellations, anyone?)

I asked Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration again today if he would be hopping. Executive Director of Communications Jaime Smith told me, “We’re aware of the upcoming change to the federal policy. As we did all throughout the pandemic, we continue to assess whether changes to our approach are necessary.”

So, no. Not yet. 

Inslee should be anxious to jump. This mandate hurts our state. And the governor has even misguidedly — or vindictively — directed that it be made a permanent condition for taxpayer-funded employment in state executive and small cabinet agencies. Read more about that here

As I wrote this piece, a press release from the governor’s office landed in my inbox. Does it declare the mandate’s end? No. It informs me that Inslee is inviting state employees to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week from May 7 to 13. 

“Public Service Recognition Week is a time to acknowledge the hard work our state employees do each day to serve the millions of people living in the great state of Washington,” Inslee says in the release. “Those who are called to public service make a big difference in people’s lives and can take great pride in their work.” 

This will be an excellent week to announce the end of an outdated mandate that mistreated workers and discriminates against future ones. Both unvaccinated and vaccinated workers can contract and spread COVID-19.

Any announcement should be accompanied by apology letters to all current and former workers, with rehire letters sent to those who lost their employment due to the mandate. Maybe they’ll still be willing to “make a big difference in people’s lives” and “take great pride in their work.”

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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