After 975 Days, Washington’s Governor Will Finally Relinquish His Emergency Pandemic Powers
For most Americans, COVID-19 long ago stopped being an immediate crisis and has become little more than a dull annoyance, a mundane part of everyday life to be ignored when possible and dealt with when necessary.
In Washington state, however, the pandemic will continue to be a literal emergency—for at least another seven weeks.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he will end the state’s COVID emergency declarations on October 31—a mere 975 days after the first emergency order was implemented on February 29, 2020. In the announcement, Inslee conceded that “we’ve come a long way in the past two years in developing the tools that allow us to adapt and live with COVID-19,” and admitted that the world has entered a new “era” of dealing with the disease.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, few governors have exercised as much broad, unchecked power over schools, the economy, and individuals’ decisions as Inslee. According to the Seattle Times, the governor issued 85 emergency orders during the pandemic, 23 of which are still in effect. Inslee’s word was law when it came to everything from shutting down schools to banning evictions, from mandating masks in various settings to mandating vaccines for certain professions, and from ordering businesses to close to deciding when they could reopen.
And it’s probably safe to say that no governor has had a more self-aggrandizing perception of his emergency powers. “There is only one person in the state of Washington who has the capability to save those lives right now, and it happens to be the governor of the state of Washington,” Inslee told a local TV station during an interview in October 2021—more than 18 months into the emergency and well after vaccines were readily available to all who wanted them.
Asked by the interviewer whether legislators should play a larger role in making policies like vaccine mandates, Inslee said it wasn’t possible “because we need to act right now.” Asked when the crisis might be deemed to have passed, at least to the extent that would allow lawmakers into the process, Inslee said he couldn’t be sure “because there are so many metrics to look at.”
Indeed, governing is a complex process. And there are situations where it is necessary to have one person exercise unilateral authority because an emergency does not permit time for democratic deliberations. But while that argument may have held water during the spring of 2020, it certainly did not in October 2021—to say nothing of October 2022. An emergency that lasts for 900-plus days is not,
Article from Reason.com