Home COVID-19 Gov. Northam’s Failure to Wear Mask or Practice Social Distancing: “The optics...

Gov. Northam’s Failure to Wear Mask or Practice Social Distancing: “The optics are terrible and give fuel to those who object to wearing face coverings”


With regard to Gov. Ralph Northam posing for selfies and strolling around Virginia Beach yesterday, without social distancing or wearing a mask, I’m with former Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (a Republican and conservative, sure, but not a Trumpster or Cuccinelli type):

“My guess is that he was caught off guard by this. I hope that is the case. But nonetheless, the optics are terrible and give fuel to those who object to wearing face coverings. BTW, I d not object to wearing face masks in public, and do so anytime I am out and about.”

I mean, even assuming this was just an honest f***up by Northam – and seriously, how hard is it to have a bandanna or whatever around your neck, ready to pull up and cover your face in a couple seconds?!? – the problems with behaving like this are multifold.

First, it seriously undercuts the Northam administration’s messaging and policy, including a possible announcement on Tuesday about requiring Virginians to wear masks.The fact is, for many weeks now, Northam’s been urging Virginians to practice social distancing and other measures, *including* wearing masks. Heck, just this Friday he gave us all “homework” – namely, to “make plans for you and your other family members to have facial protection,” whether you purchase it or make it yourself. In other words, Northam didn’t do his own “homework.”

Second, the media *loves* stories like this and of course will jump on them. See below for a few examples. At the minimum, it’s a distraction, off message, etc. At worst, it could undercut the administration’s credibility going forward.

Third, this makes it a lot harder for Democrats and others who are positively inclined towards Northam to defend him. It also makes it harder to go after Trump for being a “sociopath,” “irresponsible,” etc. because *he* refuses to wear a mask in public. Now, all the Trumpster have to say is, “what about YOUR governor?”

Fourth, it’s important to emphasize the scientifically validated fact that wearing masks is *very important* for reining in coronavirus – see, for instance, If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet, New Study Says (“There’s compelling evidence that Japan, Hong Kong, and other East Asian locales are doing it right and we should really, truly mask up—fast.”) and Why we should all be wearing face masks.

And finally, stuff like this gives ammo to Northam’s enemies – Republicans and right wingers, particularly – who also have pounced on this (see below). Note that most of these folks have their own agenda, namely to “reopen” immediately, regardless of the negative health – and negative economic – implications of doing so. So stuff like this just lets them say things like “double standard” and “he expects us to take him seriously?” As former LG Bolling correctly wrote, “the optics are terrible and give fuel to those who object to wearing face coverings.” Ugh.

P.S. Instead of issuing ridiculous statements like this (“The Governor has repeatedly encouraged wearing face coverings inside or when social distancing is impossible. He was outside today and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone”), Gov. Northam should own up to what he did, apologize for it, explain that this shows how any of us can make mistakes but that we *have to* take this seriously or we risk having the virus come roaring back (and undoing a lot of the progress we’ve made the past few months).

P.P.S. A friend just pointed out that Northam has touted being a doctor, over and over again, during this COVID-19 crisis, and that he really should act like one. Hard to disagree with that.


t gives ammunition to Republicans, far-right crazies, etc., such as:



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