COVID-19 concerns disappear from key Pennsylvania elections

While the economy has been the top concern for Pennsylvania voters, concerns about COVID-19 have all but disappeared from the governor race.

Published: October 7, 2022 5:30pm

Updated: October 9, 2022 11:19pm

(The Center Square) -

While the economy has been the top concern for Pennsylvania voters, concerns about COVID-19 have all but disappeared.

The impact of inflation and a spike in gas prices making their financial effects felt in the wallets of the public has made what was a live and passionate issue a year ago an afterthought today.

The change does not affect all candidates equally; Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano rose to prominence in Republican circles and won the primary partially due to his strong opposition to pandemic-related restrictions.

Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro defended Gov. Tom Wolf's decisions to close schools and mandate masking, but as concerns about COVID-19 fell, he pivoted. On the campaign trail in August, he stated that "folks got it wrong" with some shutdown and mandates in Pennsylvania after defending them as attorney general.

The Associated Press called the change "a politically painless way for Shapiro to tack to the middle against Mastriano."

With the pandemic fading as a political issue, it’s harder to energize voters about COVID-19. The candidates’ websites show it.

“On day one, Doug Mastriano will put an end to Wolf's mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and his draconian covid restrictions,” his campaign website states. “Mastriano will reject unconstitutional edicts that come down from the CDC and the Biden administration, and he'll expand access to effective covid therapies.”

He has also tried to raise attention to his Medical Freedom Act, still in the General Assembly, that would ban state and employer-mandated vaccination requirements and prevent "draconian quarantine and vaccination policies," as a press release stated in August.

Otherwise, the pandemic has become a minor note in Mastriano's campaign.

Likewise in the Democratic campaign. For Shapiro, the pandemic doesn’t even get a section on his policy page. When it is mentioned, it’s in the context of other issues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the unique challenges in health care access for people across the commonwealth – from the elderly to young students, we have learned that we need to do better to ensure a health-care system that is responsive to the immediate medical needs of Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro’s campaign website notes in its health care section.

Most of the restrictions criticized by Mastriano, however, have faded away, either from official revocation or social norms returning to what they were before the pandemic.

Though vaccine mandates remain in place in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for city workers, as The Center Square previously reported, most restrictions do not affect the day-to-day life of many Pennsylvanians. The ones that might, such as limited office hours or health-care waivers, tend to be federal policies.

Voters don’t dwell on the policies of the pandemics anymore. Instead, they have focused on the economy, inflation, crime, election issues, guns, and abortion. Nationally, COVID-19 doesn't even break 1% anymore when voters are asked about important issues.

Now, the focus falls on the economy. If the candidates do talk about COVID-19 as the Nov. 8 election approaches, it will be connected to the economy – or the mistakes of the past.

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