Vaccine, mask mandates can’t take credit for lower COVID-19 death rates, a comparison of states shows


If you’ve been listening to Gov. Jay Inslee, he is confident his strict COVID-19-related mandates have been responsible for saving lives. Never mind that lower state death rates don’t depend on state mask and vaccine mandates. 

In a Feb. 25 press conference about lifting his indoor mask mandate on March 12, Inslee said, “I have not been shy about standing up for public health. It saved tens of thousands of lives,” and, “The decisions we’ve made have been different than other states. And it has kept the death rate very low relative to other states … because they did not take the measures that we took.”

The data do not back up these claims. The state’s new “ForWArd” campaign lists the states with the lowest cumulative death rates per 100,000 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washington is tied with Maine in the No. 5 spot. Beating Washington are states that did not have vaccine mandates on government employees (Alaska and Utah) or had them but allowed for testing alternatives (Hawaii and Vermont). Only one state with a lower cumulative COVID-19 death rate had a mask mandate that lasted as long as Washington state’s did (Hawaii). The other states with lower death rates either never imposed a mask mandate or removed it long before Inslee did. 

See state comparisons on vaccine mandates here and comparisons on mask mandates here.

If harsh mandates kept the death rate low relative to other states, how does Inslee explain Alaska and Utah? There are clearly many factors involved, so the governor’s bragging is off-target.

Hardline mandates are causing harm in other ways. Hundreds of state employees and health care workers were fired under the governor’s orders. This brought widespread disruption in hospitals, in schools and on public roads. On a human level, the vaccine mandate ruined family budgets and ended people’s careers.

Vaccinated people can contract and spread COVID-19, but under the mandate, only unvaccinated people were fired. That makes the mandate policy unacceptable and discriminatory. And the governor ignored the science of natural immunity.

Instead of ending the vaccine mandate as a condition of employment and sending apology letters and rehire offers, it was announced yesterday that workers who contract with the Secretary of State’s Office will be added to the “fired” list if not vaccinated. 

Inslee refuses to let go of this misguided policy that is ruining lives and lowering the quality of taxpayer-funded services. Neighboring Oregon is rightly abandoning its misguided vaccine mandate. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said of the switch that “extraordinary emergency” orders were no longer necessary as “we learn to live with this virus.”​​

She’s right that hardline vaccine mandates are no longer necessary. They were never appropriate. 

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