Is Gov. Northam starting to feel the heat on his lockdown?

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

Gov. Ralph Northam, speaking in his Monday 2 p.m. presser, not wearing a facemask, indicated that he had a problem with people protesting his stay-at-home order in Richmond last week because they weren’t wearing facemasks.

“These individuals that are out protesting, that are not following the guidelines of social distancing and wearing facial protection, are literally putting themselves at risk, they’re putting all of us at risk and, and I guess most importantly, what bothers me, and I’ve been in the trenches, in hospitals, and a lot of us standing beside me have, they’re putting our healthcare providers at risk and their families,” Northam said.

O … K …

You could say this is a small issue, and it probably is, but it also isn’t, because the governor chose to highlight it himself.

It wasn’t just him – none of the speakers at his presser were wearing facemasks, and for that matter, do they all need to be on the same stage, in front of cameras?

Why not use Zoom to go to Facebook Live the way the rest of us are doing to stream conferences?

Not following the guidelines comes across as another example of Do as I say, not as I do that is at the root of what people protesting the continuation of the stay-at-home orders are trying to get across.

You can get why Northam doesn’t want to wear a facemask at his pressers. Aside from vanity, no Democrat wants images in a mask at a podium to be out there for campaign fodder in the fall, assuming the data that is starting to come out now regarding the much lower fatality rates from COVID-19 gets reinforced, and the situation continues to improve.

It’s still only April, with the election six and a half months away, but even if the current orders are lifted in the coming weeks, you can bet COVID-19 is the issue that will define the 2020 elections.

President Trump, running for re-election, is obviously going to try to play what you can only call his dumb luck that it appears this isn’t going to be the catastrophe we thought COVID-19 was going to be six weeks ago to his advantage.

This is at the heart of his “liberate” message, aimed at Northam and other Democratic governors, in states that he hopes to flip looking to November.

You can sense that Northam is starting to feel the outer edges of the heat. Last week, he seemed intent on extending his lockdown into the summer, citing modeling that has Virginia at its peak hospital resource usage in August, but on Monday, he made it a point to highlight modeling that has the Commonwealth at its peak this week, and rhetoric about a “second surge” or the “next surge” that was the thrust of the messaging from the governor’s office just last week is also on the wane.

“While we’re not looking forward to a peak or a surge, we hope that we’re reaching that part during this pandemic, and after that the numbers will start to come down, and we can use these restrictions and get back to our normal lives,” Northam said Monday.

This about-face came after one tweet and a rally with 50 people.

Another rally is scheduled for Friday that will almost certainly have more than 50 people.

There’s also a General Assembly get-together on Wednesday in Richmond that could add to the pressure on the governor, who to this point has had free reign with his run of executive orders and pressers.

No one would want to admit that politics has any impact on decision-making in these kinds of situations, but obviously it does.

Story by Chris Graham

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