The Democratic governor of Virginia gave his constituents “homework” over the weekend, urging them to source out face masks if they didn’t already have one—and wear it. However he forgot one important detail.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, told reporters on Friday wearing a mask meant one “could literally save someone else’s life.” He continued, “That is becoming clearer every day as we move further into managing this virus over the long term.”

Social media criticized Northam when over the weekend, he was caught at Virginia Beach Oceanfront minus a mask, and not practicing social distancing with a woman who wanted a selfie with the governor, after giving him a pat on the shoulder and professing to know him. Virginia Beach was reopened as a test to see if beachgoers could follow social distancing before other beaches could also open.

“Physician, heal thyself,” tweeted Todd Gilbert, Virginia’s Republican House minority leader.

“We just have to continue to remind people that we want to keep the social distance of 6 feet apart,” Northam said when asked about the close encounter. “That’s a challenge for a lot of folks because they’re just not used to doing that.”

Northam’s office said in a statement the governor was remiss in not wearing a mask. “He was outside and not expecting to be within 6 feet of anyone,” Alena Yarmosky said. “This is an important reminder to always have face coverings in case situations change. We are all learning how to operate in this new normal, and it’s important to be prepared.”

On Monday in defense of his slip-up with no mask, Northam said, “I was outside, saw people who wanted to take pictures, and I wasn’t prepared.” He added, “I was there to talk to officials and the media. I wasn’t prepared to talk to the public.”

After his apology, Northam announced the new mandate that requires all Virginians to wear a mask in public if social distancing cannot be practiced. This includes wearing one inside places like government buildings, hair salons, and restaurants. Masks can be removed when eating or drinking, during exercise, and for anyone suffering from breathing difficulties.


There have been more than 34,000 confirmed cases of the CCP virus in Virginia, with 1,135 confirmed deaths. More than 1.6 million cases have been confirmed across the United States, and nearly 100,000 deaths.

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