Northam’s COVID Conference

by Kerry Dougherty

Well, I sat through another Ralph Northam press conference Tuesday eager to hear if any reporter – just one – would ask the governor  if maybe, just perhaps, the uptick in Covid cases in Tidewater might be linked to recent protests.

I mean it’s possible, isn’t it? After all, the positive tests are predominantly among those in the 20 to 29 age group.

Let’s think. What have some of these youngsters been up to over the past month that might account for a surge in new infections?

Have they been canoodling in restaurants? Shopping maskless in Kroger? Cramming the pews in local churches?

“They’re occurring when people are gathering, especially in areas around a bar,” Northam said, without presenting any supporting data.

Oh, and last time I checked, bar areas in restaurants were closed.

Still, not one journalist asked about protests.

One reporter did ask Northam if he was going to meet the deadline he set for testing every single resident and staff member in Virginia’s nursing homes.

The answer: No.

Instead, the reporters peppered the governor with questions about how exactly he planned to punish Hampton Roads for the sudden increase in COVID cases.

What teeth would Northam add to the mask mandate, one asked. Did Northam plan to close the beaches, wondered another. Might he issue another stay-at-home order, one ventured.

One reporter asked if the presser was simply a “warning shot” to our little corner of Virginia.

Northam seemed concerned but not panicked by the new numbers. They were heading in the wrong direction, he said, but nothing like what’s happening in other places. The governor actually acknowledged that most folks are complying with his emergency orders.

And they are. You see it everywhere you go.

But then Northam announced that businesses must enforce his indoor mask mandate. He’s unleashing an army of inspectors he said, and establishments violating the rules of his emergency orders would have their licenses yanked.

Northam said the new motto for businesses should be: “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Mask, No Service.” Cute. But it sets Virginia entrepreneurs up for ADA lawsuits if they deny service to people with disabilities who cannot mask up. In the past, the governor made a point of excluding folks with medical conditions from mandatory face coverings. He made no mention of exclusions this week.

At the risk of introducing some calm into the situation, Jim Bacon on his Bacon’s Rebellion website, points out that although there’s a sharp spike in new cases among young people in Tidewater, other indicators in the region mirror what’s going on elsewhere in the commonwealth. (Bacon’s site provides graphs to support his statements.)

Given the surge in the young-adult demographic, one can speculate that the reason Hampton Roads stands out is that the region, and Virginia Beach in particular, is Virginia’s summertime party town. Stumbling drunk people are less likely to abide by mask-wearing orders.

The next question is whether the spike in COVID-19 cases represents a public health emergency that warrants a clamp-down on mask wearing. If 25- to 29-year-olds account for much of the surge, the fact that young people are less likely to develop severe symptoms would lead one to predict that the effect on hospitalizations would be modest

Let’s look at hospitalizations for the Eastern region.

Lo and behold, the moving, seven-day average of hospitalizations has ticked up slightly, just as it has for the rest of the state. This non-event suggests that only a small percentage of the young people getting the virus need special medical treatment.

Well, well, well, the seven-day moving average of COVID-related deaths in the Eastern region remain well off its highs of early May, generally about two or three per day, many days with no deaths reported at all. There was a mini-spike on July 11, but it won’t prove to be sufficient to budge the moving average.

That’s encouraging stuff. Hope the trends hold.

Northam said that if numbers continue to soar he will reduce the size of gatherings from the present limit of 250.

No one asked if that would also apply to protests.

This column has been republished with permission from

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62 responses to “Northam’s COVID Conference”

  1. sherlockj Avatar

    You win the patience in journalism ward for sitting through a Northam briefing and press conference.

    I sat through several of those earlier in the year and found myself astounded by the Governor’s visible panic when a question – any question – was asked. I worried that he was going to break his neck swiveling it at warp speed looking for someone – anyone – other than himself to answer any question.

    The rest of the time I was challenged not to fall asleep.

  2. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    I’m surprised he hasn’t moonwalked yet without the wife by his side to stop him. He’s really growing as a public figure.
    But again like some state on this blog the GOP can’t even bring a decent foil to the public stage.I I find that shocking for a state with a large contingent of honorable military folks. I guess they are too honorable for VA political stink.

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar
      Matt Hurt

      Given the current state of affairs, it seems like honorable people are avoiding politics like the plague. I have a very difficult time trying to find examples to counter this statement.

      1. WayneS Avatar

        Why would any decent, sane, intelligent and upstanding person want to run for state or federal elected office in this day and age, and thereby subject themselves to the viciousness and depravity of the attacks which the major political parties launch against each other’s candidates?

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar
          Matt Hurt

          This is why less desirable folks occupy these positions of leadership.

          1. WayneS Avatar

            Indeed. We have twisted our electoral system so badly that only narcissistic sociopaths have the psychological endurance to last through an entire political campaign.

            I’m no doubt overstating it a bit but given our most recent crops of candidates for high office, probably not by much.

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    The “gatherings” in Richmond were far more intense and persistent, so if that was the explanation for Hampton Roads, Richmond would be seeing the same problem. But it is certainly worth asking about. We’ve all noticed the double standard in play. I’d love to see the COVID Cops working one of those crowds, pulling out their measuring tapes and giving tickets for no hand sanitizer stations, but won’t hold my breath. They’ll be harassing every business on the street, but not the people out in the street….

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Not to worry, Dick’s got friends who assure us it’s a scientific fact after rigorous study by experts that leftist street riots, looting, and protests do not, repeat DO NOT, spread Covid-19. And, leftist street riots, looting, and protests are not, repeat ARE NOT, responsible for any spike or uptick for Covid-19 cases anywhere, anyway or anyhow, period.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Oh what could it be – kids on spring break not wearing masks and carousing shoulder-to-shoulder in bars and such … or protestors in the streets wearing masks – in tidewater?

    This is what I call the “please let there be a real Santa Claus” syndrome.

    Here’s the “science” – if you are outside and a few feet apart from others AND wearing a mask – that’s DIFFERENT than if you are INSIDE, in a bar, shoulder-to-shoulder sharing your breath with others and no masks.

    This is not even rocket science.

    Even Kerry blathers on and on about how “safe” it is “sitting on the beach” ….

    The jury is in – in places where there were no protestors but bars – COVID19 is running amok.

    Gov Abbot of Texas and others like him have not pointed to protestors as super-spreaders but instead young folks mixing it up in bars and gyms and like indoor venues.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      None of what you wrote eliminates the potential for COVID 19 cases caused by protests. There’s no difference between Trump hiding numbers and Northam hiding numbers except for the fact that the butt-licking MSM helps the latter.

      If close mingling in crowds is a good way to spread the virus, mingling in crowds is a good way to spread the virus.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Oh I agree but I’m looking across the country in all those cities – did we see upticks in other cities? What’s Northam have to do with those other cities?

  6. VDOTyranny Avatar

    As I understand it Order 63 is still the controlling order in this situation. It’s nearly impossible for businesses to enforce the mask mandate on patrons due to the self-identified medical exemption.

    But here’s the main point: Northam is recommending the policy but he hasn’t out right mandated it by removing the medical exemption on patrons.

    If businesses post a “no mask, no service” sign as Northam suggests then they run the risk of an ADA lawsuit. That may or may not go anywhere, but its still an expensive pain in the butt and may result in bad public relations (its all local).

    Now, there’s plenty of other things the VHD and Va ABC can due to harass the unlucky businesses they chose to make an example out of. This tactic is nothing new and is a feature in our regulations, not a bug (the conservatives have been using this for decades).

    The government will put out a press release about how they are protecting the public, the press mafia will it eat up , and a few small businesses will be thrown under the bus. All in a good days flogging by the Plantation Elite of Richmond.

  7. VDOTyranny Avatar

    Once again, Northam is being two-faced. Telling businesses to enforce a “no mask, no service policy” while avoiding actually issuing an Order that may get Virginia sued under ADA. Then, threatening small businesses that don’t enforce a mask policy that they are going to get harrassed until the VHD or ABC or VOSHA can find another violation.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      So Texas is going to get sued?

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Probably Maryland too. But the suits won’t get any money out of the state. They will just get a reversal of the strong mandate for wearing masks. By the time the matter meanders through the court system hopefully the Coronavirus epidemic will be over.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          so Northam can’t win? If he is a hard-ass, he gets sued and if he tries to finesse it , he’s a weasel?

          1. VDOTyranny Avatar

            A manidate likely conflict with existing Federal and State laws. Hence, too many regulations that come back to bite you with unintended consequences.

            No worries though, Northram will harass small business owners over other regulations while claiming to be protecting the ininterests of the public the Leftists get to have good feelz about it.

          2. djrippert Avatar

            He should be willing to get sued. So what? As far as I know the state has sovereign immunity on things like this. The courts ultimately reverse his mandate but businesses have the teeth to enforce the mask rule.He’s out of the governor’s mansion in 18 months anyway.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            The thing is that in terms of “enforcement” and “threatening business” and getting sued – Northam is not standing alone off the farm from other Governors.

            He’s doing his thing on the same issues that other Governors like Hogan or Abbot are also doing – and they all are subject to the same complaints and potential of being sued.

            This is not a Northam thing. It’s a pandemic thing.

          4. WayneS Avatar

            “so Northam can’t win? If he is a hard-ass, he gets sued and if he tries to finesse it , he’s a weasel?”

            Yup. That’s pretty much it. Such is the life of a politician.

    2. Rowinguy Avatar

      Mask orders have been in place all over the country for months; where is this deluge of ADA actions occurring, hmm?

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well let me offer a couple of real world examples.

    I walked into Walmart absent-mindedly holding my mask and not yet on – the lady at the front door asked if I had the mask…

    Today – went to get a haircut. The barber had a mask and insisted that I wash my hands and wear a mask – no mask – no haircut.

    Now – forget Northam for a minute and look at all those other states that also have various versions of mask regs….

    Is Northam THAT different from those other states?

    When we find something that Northam is doing that other states are not – then let me know.

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      Fine, and your barber may or may not be sued*. Did Wal-mart require you to wear the mask, or just ask you? I’ve seen plenty (mostly youth) not wearing masks in various retail outlets. Wal-mart is not enforcing it statewide, if they are enforcing it at all. You can ask all you want.

      Do these other states have a medical exemption for patrons? Or, did they’re Governor have the guts to take the responsibility for it? Why was there a medical exemption in the first place?

      The Health Department is circulating guidance stating the Order 67 has eliminated the exemption for employees. At least small businesses have that to fall back on if sued. Its still going to be a pain in the butt for some unlucky small businesses that don’t have lawyers on staff.

    2. WayneS Avatar

      “I walked into Walmart absent-mindedly…”

      There’s no need to repeat yourself…


  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I did not see any security there but the lady was nice but insistent.

    this is Texas: ” The face mask order, which has certain exceptions for young children, people with medical conditions and people eating in restaurants or exercising outdoors, applies in all counties that have 20 or more cases of the coronavirus.”

    The thing is this is going on in a bunch of states and each one has some variation of how they are doing it.

    And those states have critics – who sound a lot like the critics in Virginia because their bottom line is that the govt should not be in the business of mandating masks in the first place, then they go into their point-by-points.

    My bet is that if you asked the critics to agree on a mask approach – they’d not be able. Each of them has their own issues.

    There is no real advocated alternative approach – its just a cacophony of critics to the idea of masks in general.

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      Don’t get me wrong, I think the medical exemption has been abused to the point of making the mask mandate a joke. People need to be wearing the masks when in public.

      My point is that the Governor needs to pass a clear Executive Order, not threaten small businesses into a rock and hard place. Northam needs to be a leader, make the tough calls, not be a spineless wishy-washy two-faced political weasel

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Texas version of pineless wishy-washy two-faced political weasel:

        Exceptions to the order
        Children under the age of 10
        Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering
        Any person consuming food or drink or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink
        Any person that is exercising or engaging in physical activities outdoors and is maintaining safe social distancing from people who are not part of their household
        Any person who is driving alone or with passengers who are in the same household as the driver
        Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the covering during security surveillance, screening or need for specific access to the face (like while visiting a bank or obtaining personal care involving the face).
        Any person in a pool, lake or similar body of water
        Any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher or actively administering an election (but wearing a mask is strongly encouraged)
        Any person who is actively providing access to religious worship (but wearing a mask is strongly encouraged)
        Any person while the person is giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience
        Any person who meets the criteria laid out by the Texas Division of Emergency Management regarding minimal cases of COVID-19 and whose county judge has opted out of the face-covering requirement (but wearing a mask is strongly encouraged)

        If Texans are found in violation of the rule, they will be penalized, first with a verbal or written warning and then with fines, the order rules.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Can you be medically exempt from wearing a face mask?

            According to the CDC, “cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

            Beyond that, every state has its own guidelines regarding the wearing of face coverings. In California, the state’s Department of Public Health gives mask exemptions to “persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.” This includes “persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.” In New York City, you don’t have to wear a face covering if you have “a health issue that makes you unable to tolerate [one].”

            But here’s where it gets tricky: None of the health agencies specify any health conditions that would constitute a mask exemption—and some health professionals don’t believe these stated, unspecific exemptions for surgical masks or cloth face coverings are necessary. “There are no known medical conditions aside from a severe skin condition [like a very severe burn that needs medical attention] on your face that would prevent a person from wearing this type of mask,” David Kaufman, MD, pulmonologist and director of the medical ICU at Tisch Hospital, tells Health. “If you can wear a scarf to keep your face warm in the winter, you can wear a mask to prevent the spread of disease.”

            like I said – this is not a Northam thing.

      2. VDOTyranny Avatar

        And, do you have first hand expereice with what retailers are actually doing in Texas, particularly small business operators? You can obviously find a media report that will present whatever POV you want. There are certainly small operators who have been misinformed one way or the other, and more than happy to display their ignorance on TV.

        The other issue with Virginia’s exemption is that no proof of a medical condition is required. If a patron says they have a medical condition, that’s all they have to say. As a practical matter, there is no point in even asking.

        You can post a sign asking patrons to wear a mask, but Order 63 is quite clear that patrons can take the exemption without showing proof. If a business refuses a customer, or asks for proof, they are taking a legal risk.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          No I don’t have first hand experience – but I don’t think I searched around for a biased POV… and you are more than welcome to do that but what I showed was that similar types of issues are ongoing in other states – it’s not just a “Northam” thing.

          in Texas:

          ” But a number of Republicans, already angered by Mr. Abbott’s move to once again close bars, were upset by the order and the possibility of fines. Some legislators complained that Mr. Abbott had made his decision behind closed doors and had not called the Legislature back into session.

          “We need a special session now so legislators can pass laws, not Abbott,” State Representative Tony Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington, wrote on Twitter.

          The governor is in a tough spot,” said Reb Wayne, a Republican political consultant in Austin. “He’s trying to balance the public health and general welfare of the state versus some of the voices within his own political constituency who are not happy.”

          This is just not a “Northam” issue… it’s going on across the country.

          1. VDOTyranny Avatar

            What does that have to do with the Northam theatening small businesses in a press conference, but not issuing clear Executive Orders?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            It’s in the minds eye of some – not everyone – and it’s a similar issue going on in other states – it’s not just a “Northam” issue except for the critics of Northam.

            He’s not “threatening” businesses any more than say for someone smoking in the store… no?

  10. VDOTyranny Avatar

    * here’s the business sector specifc regulations for personal grooming. When the State adds similar language to other business sector specific guidance then those business will likely be off the hook legally (that still doesn’t mean the general public won’t protest, complain or threaten employees.)

    “Provide face coverings for clients or ask that clients bring a face covering with them that they must wear during the service. Limit services to only those that can be completed without clients removing their face covering.”

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    well that don’t work when they need to cut around your ears !


    You’re looking for legal/regulator precision. It’s not going to happen, at least not right away. We’re in a new and different realm and Government is notorious at not keeping up… with changes…in society, technology, etc.

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      Why? I can write a precise law or regulation. It may not hold up in court, but at least it would put the burden on those who wrote the law instead of passing the buck to small businesses.

      Its a cop-out by slime-ball two-face politicians

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    it’s playing out as we speak… No one really knows what precision is needed and will stand up in court… it’s the wild wild west… and no shortage of critics.. The problem is the critics themselves don’t agree either.. Everyone has their own idea…

    This boils down to what authority and power the government has – to suspend “rights” in an emergency.

    If we had a hurricane or some other natural disaster – the government could take some of your rights – and they do… and have… they can kick you off your property and keep you off.. they can and will throw you in jail if you disobey an order – etc, etc…

    But now we’re on to a “how long” can they do this… and it’s Katy bar the door time.

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      … so in the mean time, stick it to small businesses? The rest of your commit is a non-sequitar as usual. Businesses (and people) have to comply with the laws. The law says this, but the governor threatens another thing in a press conference. He’s trying to have it both ways, and place the burden and blame on others.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        no more or less than a range of other issues that affect small businesses anytime a new circumstance evolves and laws and regs follow.

        If someone walks into a Walmart smoking a cigarette – how does it get resolved? Is it on the business?

        1. VDOTyranny Avatar

          Is the prohibition of smoking a voilation of ADA or some other law? Does the state law against smoking have an unenforcable loop hole?

        2. MAdams Avatar

          Smoking regulation are codified in Virginia, the were passed through the GA.

          It’s enforced by the Police.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well, I’m asking how it gets enforced and whether the business has to handle it?

    If someone came into the store with an animal and claimed it was a service dog?

    there are all kinds of things that could happen with customers in a store that may be a violation of law or a violation of the stores’s policies…. right?

    Are you SURE about violating the ADA? or is that just your take, your supposition?

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      We’re already iterated through this in the above comments.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        did we agree?

        1. VDOTyranny Avatar

          Do you agree?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            must not if we keep circling, eh?

    2. VDOTyranny Avatar

      The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

      Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability

      An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Right. And how do stores verify that’s it’s a legal service animal?

        and Who enforces the rules for ADA – the store?

        The way the law is written – the store has to ACCOMMODATE them if they meet the requirements. Who decides that they meet the requirements?

        Just FYI – I typically am in Walmart twice a week – week in and week out – and I don’t think I have EVER seen a service dog…maybe once … but if I go to Lowes, supposed “service” dogs are all over creation…and they have “cute” little signs on them that say ‘service animal” but never seen them in Walmart…

        1. VDOTyranny Avatar

          How does the store verify a patron has a medical exemption for masks? Are we agreeing on this point?

          Why does the Governor threaten small businesses about enforcing the mask manidate?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            How does a store do this for service animals or smoking or other behaviors that are problematical?

            Does the govt “threaten” business with enforcing the ACA?

          2. WayneS Avatar


            The ADA is a duly enacted law.

            There is a difference between a duly enacted law and a royal fiat… I mean, executive order.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            Oh I do know but I’m asking you how is it actually enforced at the business level?

          4. MAdams Avatar


            Just stop attempting to bring up smoking, it makes you look silly. It its codified Law, passed by the general assembly and enforced by a citation from the Police.


            Everyone tired of your strawman

      2. WayneS Avatar

        “An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.”

        That is true. However, I have learned from experience that it is best for me to self-segregate when I take my service-alligator to Walmart…

        1. John Harvie Avatar
          John Harvie


  14. djrippert Avatar

    Virginia store owner (to unmasked patron): You need to wear a mask unless you have a health condition that prevents wearing a mask.

    Unmasked patron: I have a health condition that prevents me from wearing a mask.

    Virginia store owner: Have a good day.

    Remember that Northam thinks nursing homes are people and HIPAA precludes him from publishing COVID-19 information on nursing homes. Even though we’re talking about Ralph Northam … he must think people are people. What will his inspectors do when they find an unmasked person in a store who claims to have a medical condition that prevents masking? Demand their medical records?

    To be fair to Northam (which I hate to do) having people hassle store owners about unmasked customers will probably get the store owners to at least ask unmasked customers to put on a mask. Some reasonable percent will do so because they simply forgot to put on their masks or because they have respect for the proprietor.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      but this is the same situation in other states, also, no?

      what is your point?

      that only Northam is doing this?

      in the end – there are no police stationed at the business to enforce the masks – the owner has to monitor then intervene to ask then call the cops.


      what is this really about if this is an issue going on across the country?

  15. I wrote to the VDH Director of Communications to ask “Why hasn’t the Governor addressed the multiple demonstrations as well as incidents of mass vandalism as a factor in the spike in cases?” The question was forwarded to the governor’s communication team. The response came from from the Secretary of Commerce and Trade:
    Dear Carol: Thank you for your email and your concerns. It is the responsibility of the localities to deal with demonstrations and vandalism. The Governor, with input from the Virginia Department of Health, is continually analyzing the health data in relation to current events.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      You did not expect the Director of Communications to actually communicate with you, did you?

      That response looks like it was created by an auto-writer utilizing Artificial Unintelligence and a Random Non-sequitur generator.

      1. You never know when you will get an informative response or hear from a person who will give you some insight into what’s going on.

        I play the lottery on occasion too.

        1. WayneS Avatar

          With about the same odds?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            All politicians left and right and in between hire “special” folks to answer letters… it’s a real skill! Polite but not condescending – info you probably already know and never, never anything you can really “use”.

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