The Failing Case for COVID-19 Mandates

The recent COVID-19 outbreak is dealing a major blow to the justification for extreme vaccine mandates.

While there is some evidence that vaccines decrease the severity of COVID-19 infection, the public policy arguments to essentially force Americans to get vaccinated, under threat of losing their livelihoods, are rapidly falling apart as the recent wave sweeps the country.

What we are seeing with the latest surge in cases—attributed to the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19—is that countless people who have been vaccinated and boosted are getting sick.

Plenty of left-wing media outlets have tried to make Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seem like a reckless monster for refusing to implement harsh lockdowns and mandates since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pattern has repeated itself in the most recent wave.

But the reality is that there is no evidence that these policies would do anything to stop COVID-19 breakouts. If anything, Florida appears to be a refuge for Americans who want to carry on a semblance of normal life during a pandemic where there are no perfect options.

Some far-left politicians appear to be happily taking advantage of the haven Florida has created.

Are Florida’s less restrictive policies creating a dangerous environment compared to places that went all-in on mandates?

Let’s look at the example of New York.

The state has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. It also has a statewide proof of vaccination or mask requirement. New York City has a proof of vaccination requirement for indoor businesses and dining.

Yet, the state and certainly the city is being hit by an enormous wave of COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, 14% of New York City Police Department officers were out sick, according to the New York Post. Most had COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.

“The [New York City Fire Department] said 30 percent of its 4,200 EMS staff and 18 percent of its 11,000 firefighters were sick,” the Post reported.

While sickness numbers for many other city agencies haven’t been reported, it’s likely that they are very high.

This, after the city put thousands of its workers on leave due to its vaccine requirements. Now, presumably with a nearly entirely vaccinated staff, it is dealing with a serious shortage of healthy workers.

Could the city maybe use some of those workers put on leave from the mandates?

Health care providers could perhaps also use some of the thousands of people who lost their jobs in New York because they wouldn’t get the vaccines.

New York has taken the vaccine mandate a step further, implementing a private sector vaccine mandate that just went into effect. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio may not have cared about the mandate’s impact on private businesses, but there is no doubt those businesses will feel the staff crunch. 

Many businesses—restaurants in particular—have already been forced to make their staff check vaccine papers at the door. This policy now seems farcical in the face of the clear inability of the vaccine to stop people from getting sick.

It’s a performative act for the sake of compliance that does little for public safety.

It’s not just New York that’s implemented strict policies while dealing with a huge COVID-19 outbreak. Washington, D.C., which also has highly restrictive COVID-19 policies, is likewise facing a surge right now. It’s hard not to see a similar situation not playing out all over the country this winter.

The bottom line is this. It’s become clear that a significant number of Americans will get sick with COVID-19 this season, vaccine or not. Given the numbers we are seeing in New York and elsewhere, it’s hard to argue that highly restrictive and intrusive mandates are stopping that reality.

The justification that the Biden administration and other state and local governments have used to implement the mandates, even beyond the legal and constitutional issues, is crumbling.

Perhaps this is why President Joe Biden’s approval on COVID-19—one of the very few issues where he was above water—is dropping sharply. Draconian COVID-19 policies of increasingly dubious effectiveness are remaining popular only among the strongly ideologically committed.

The test now is to see how leaders and policymakers will respond. Will they stick with the repressive mandates, or will they adjust to reality?

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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