Coronavirus

‘We are all learning to operate in new normal:’ Gov. Northam responds to viral online photos after visiting Virginia Beach without mask

Coronavirus

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WFXR/WRIC/WAVY) — On Saturday, Gov. Ralph Northam joined crowds at Virginia Beach — which reopened for recreational use for the first time in nearly two months — but the governor’s lack of a face mask at the beach has led to backlash on social media.

The beaches officially reopened on Friday, May 22 with the following restrictions:

  • No gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Parking at garages and surface lots will be capped at 50 percent
  • No group sports like volleyball
  • People can’t bring alcohol, speakers, umbrellas or tents
  • No fishing on sand beaches from the jetty at 1st Street to 42nd Street in the resort area

There are now signs around the beach promoting social distancing and more than 100 “beach ambassadors” who were hired to keep visitors in check.

“It’s a great plan, I think it’s working well and I think this can really be a model not only for the rest of the state but the rest of the country on how to do it the right way and how to do it safely and responsibly,” said Northam, who was among the crowd of visitors at the Oceanfront Saturday, May 23.

Northam says people should still practice safe social distancing guidelines over the holiday, especially since there are still some parts of Virginia that have not moved to Phase One of reopening and remain under the stay-at-home orders.

Even though Northam is currently considering a statewide mandate requiring that Virginians wear protective masks while in public, residents on social media were quick to point out the governor was not wearing a mask of his own in the videos and photos of Northam’s Virginia Beach visit that circulated online.

A spokeswoman for Northam says the governor was not expecting to be in close proximity to residents during the visit.

“The Governor has repeatedly encouraged wearing face coverings inside or when social distancing is impossible,” says Alena Yarmosky, Northam’s press secretary. “He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone. 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.”

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