Virginia’s Governor Northam: Hero or hypocrite?

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Everyone has an opinion on staying safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us look to our elected officials for sound advice on safety as businesses reopen and we try to regain a sense of normalcy. But what happens when your elected officials give guidelines but don’t follow those guidelines themselves? That’s the current situation with Virginia’s Governor Northam. He has provided a phased plan for slowly reopening the state with some very specific guidelines. This plan has included recommendations on wearing masks while in public. But it seems that Governor Northam can’t even follow his own advice.

Mandated masks

Wearing masks in public has been mandated in many states. Up until this week, it has been optional but recommended in Virginia. Governor Northam’s latest press conference from May 26th states that masks will be mandatory throughout the state. Beginning on May 29th, Executive Order Sixty-Three goes into effect. This order mandates that masks be worn in areas where social distancing is difficult or impossible. This includes grocery stores, public transportation, pharmacies, grooming businesses, and government buildings. Basically, if you’re in a public building, you have to wear a mask. Children under the age of 2 are exempt. Anyone with a health condition that prevents them from safely wearing a mask is also exempt.

Politics over safety?

Virginia’s Governor Northam graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and served 8 years in the Army. Northam was a pediatric neurologist before being elected governor of Virginia in 2018. His professional background should give us peace of mind that he knows his stuff when it comes to the spread of infection. The week before the mandated mask policy was announced, Governor Northam was photographed visiting Virginia Beach without a mask. He even went so far as to take selfies with other beachgoers. There are multiple pictures of Governor Northam standing within close proximity to others who also went mask-free. So if masks are vital in preventing the spread of the virus, why didn’t the governor heed his own advice?

The excuse for compromising public safety

I tend to avoid political discussions. I have strong opinions and I stand firm in those opinions but I don’t feel the need to share them with everyone I meet. However, when I see an elected official like our Governor Northam who is blatantly ignoring his own recommendations, it makes me angry. This well-educated man who is leading our state claims to have forgotten his mask in the car. He visits a crowded beach that has just reopened per his recommendations, knowing that people are taking advantage of their newfound freedom, and he forgets his face mask in the car. He claims that face masks are essential for protecting those around us when in public. So perhaps he doesn’t value the safety and health of his constituents if he can’t be bothered to keep a mask readily available when he’s in close proximity to others.

The necessity of wearing face masks in public is a controversial subject. Regulations and recommendations can vary greatly based on the state. This is understandable since the rate of infection of the Coronavirus also varies based on location. But one of the most frustrating aspects of wearing masks is understanding state-wide regulations. You would think that a governor with a medical background would be consistent in his mask-wearing recommendations. But Virginia’s Governor Northam seems to follow the “do as I say not as I do” philosophy.

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