You Don’t Have to Like the Decree, But Wear Face Masks Anyway

Wise King Ralph keeps a face mask at the ready.

by James A. Bacon

I’m still digesting Governor Ralph Northam’s face-mask mandate, but my initial reaction is that it could be worse. I dislike the coercive aspect of his executive order. But requiring Virginians to wear face masks in public buildings and places of commerce is less intrusive than compelling businesses and workplaces to shut down. If ordering people to wear face masks allows Northam to feel better about loosening other restrictions, then it’s a net gain.

There’s an element to the face mask debate that I find curiously neglected in the conservative/libertarian commentary I’ve seen. Conservatives and libertarians tout the virtue of personal responsibility. Regardless of whether or not face coverings protect you from getting the COVID-19 virus, they do reduce the chances that you will spread the virus. If we believe in personal responsibility as an alternative to government coercion, conservatives and libertarians need to live their values by… acting responsibly.

I would go one step further: If conservatives and libertarians want to see Northam release his Vulcan Death Grip on Virginia’s economy, they should do everything within their power to ensure that the coronavirus does not spread. If Virginia sees a significant uptick in the spread of the virus, that’s all the Governor needs to back peddle on his timid reversal of emergency shutdown measures.

There are good reasons to oppose the mandate. The Richmond Times-Dispatch actually gives a decent summary here:

Clark Mercer, Northam’s chief of staff, said health inspectors at the agency had the power to “pull a license to operate” if a business is found out of compliance with health regulations.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police earlier Tuesday “strongly” opposed a face mask requirement, arguing that it could force businesses to enforce it, potentially exposing them to dangerous encounters.

The police chiefs association said the order turns “good advice into a mandate” that will be enforced with trespassing citations and by physically removing violators from businesses.

The group argued it “destroys police/community relations and puts business owners in a no-win situation: either be prepared to confront people you value as customers, or avoid the risk of a potentially violent confrontation by keeping your business closed.”

I fully share those concerns, and they are worth highlighting in the hope of reversing the mandate. But at the end of the day, Northam has virtually limitless power to rule by emergency decree. While we should work to limit that power legislatively and constitutionally, that is a long-term project. In the short term, we need to reopen the economy, and given Northam’s mindset and the fact that he has the power and we don’t, that means doing what we can to drive the COVID-19 infection rate down.

Exercise personal responsibility: Wear masks and protect others from the virus.

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59 responses to “You Don’t Have to Like the Decree, But Wear Face Masks Anyway

  1. re: ” There’s an element to the face mask debate that I find curiously neglected in the conservative/libertarian commentary I’ve seen. Conservatives and libertarians tout the virtue of personal responsibility. Regardless of whether or not face coverings protect you from getting the COVID-19 virus, they do reduce the chances that you will spread the virus. If we believe in personal responsibility as an alternative to government coercion, conservatives and libertarians need to live their values by… acting responsibly.”

    well no, that’s not happening… and no.. I don’t think it’s the liberals that are saying “no I’m not wearing a damn mask”… so it’s gotta be those others…

    Actually – there is just a tiny bit of a crack with Conservatives on this – a sliver of Conservatives who are speaking out about it while the vast majority of them are sayin “NO WAY I’m wearing a mask”.. and you can actually identify them (to this point) in the stores… they not only don’t wear masks – they are purposely making eye contact!

    I expect trouble at the stores if the stores try to follow the mandate. We’re going to see confrontations and scuffles… and the stores are going to get security guards or call the cops for disorderly conduct.

    • False, all a person has to say is that they medically cannot wear a mask. The store can’t question it, the Government can’t question it and you can’t question it.

      This has nothing to do with political parties.

    • You can be forced to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. You can be forced to wear a shirt in a restaurant. Cooks with long hair can be forced to wear a hair net. Why is wearing a mask such a problem? I’ve been wearing a mask inside retail stores since April 15 here in Maryland. Despite the fact that the Eastern Shore of Maryland is one of the few conservative and Republican parts of the state nobody cares about the masks. You get a mask, leave it in your car, wear it when you go inside a store and take it off when you exit.

      This is a nit. Masks don’t interfere with reopening the economy. They probably do slow the spread of the disease when people cough, talk or sneeze. This really isn’t a big deal.

      • All the items you just discussed were mandated by Laws passed by the legislature. They aren’t arbitrary requirements via EO’s.

        This isn’t about it being a big deal, it’s about if it’s Legal. Even under the Emergency Law invoked, those powers along with the powers to shutter private business do not exist.

  2. On my way out, and there are three masks in the auto console, one an N95. It will be worn.

  3. Virginia will follow all other states where lawsuits regarding face masks have already been started. Per CDC requirements, they are only to be used when social distancing cannot be achieved.

    Despite the belief otherwise, he and the department of Health services do not have any legal authority to tell private business how to operate unless a Law is passed by the legislature. The continued reference to the Law that makes him the Emergency manager is meaningless, if it’s not specifically written in the Law, the power does not exist.

    Should you wear a mask in a public setting to protect yourself and others, sure. However, that decision rest completely upon the individual.

    • I agree with you on the process of requiring masks. The General Assembly should have been called back into session to vote on all of Northam’s edicts. However, that would require the brave souls in our legislature to go on the record with their votes. Northam can’t run again in 2021 while the politicians for life in the General Assembly intend to hold office until they die.

      • So well said! I for one have one in the car and one in my purse. I don’t want to be responsible for making someone sick! Nor do I want to be sick. Northam is taking the hit, he can politically afford to do so.

      • They operate much like the Federal Congress, they’ve abdicated their powers so they can’t be held to a position. The problem with that and at the Federal level is that those powers do not exist at the Executive Level.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        No kidding Mr. DJ about staying until they die. Just ask Ken Plum.

  4. ABSOLUTELY NOT! I am not a sheep. I can read the material and see enough to know they are full of crap. I would be happy to share the list of Gov, his cabinet, the AG, VDH, and local VDH to rip them new ones on this. Medical information, either prove it without a doubt, and they can’t. I’ve already got notes in to NC and will add Tenn and WV to that so that folks can know who wants our business. We’ll take business out of state and make sure Northam knows it. Northam is already planning a late summer session to put his dictate into action. I am already going to send and slam the General Assembly members on how they’ll vote so they’ll be tossed out on their butts. I’ll be hitting up city councils, BoS’s need to be hit so folks can have the lines drawn and know who is going to be a sheep and who isn’t.

    • In the grand scheme of things wearing masks is a nit. I think you should focus on reopening the economy more than masks. Nobody will remain unemployed over the mask rule. Many remain unemployed over the shutdown of businesses.

    • I suppose you could just rotate your MAGA hat down over your face.
      Then, you’d be DOUBLY compliant; you’d cover your face while talking through your hat.

      • I hope you weren’t referring to me. I don’t wear or have a MAGA hat. This is what happens when you base judgements on something other than facts – or not ask the question first.

  5. James,
    Like you I will wear the mask in venues where it is required. Conservatives and libertarians are temperamentally inclined to obey laws and rules (even oppressive ones). As a testament to that tendency Thomas Jefferson who most conservatives and libertarians embrace said in the Declaration of Independence “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” As a temporary measure the mask mandate is probably sufferable.

    However, if the science were so solid that mask wearing will in fact prevent me from spreading the disease, the governor should state his sources and make the data available to outside analysts. The science on the issue is far from clear. Recent experiments in Korea demonstrate that even N95 masks allow an infected patient to spread enough virus to infect those in the surrounding area.

    Where purists depart from the pragmatists is not about the necessity responsible behavior. Rather the dispute is about the level of proof of societal protection which should be offered to justify curtailment of rights, not to mention the question of who gets to define “responsible behavior”. Pragmatists can often be swayed with assertions like could, may, might, conceivably or possibly. The problem is that the curtailment of rights is certain, while the benefit is hypothetical.

    Wearing masks should be interpreted by no one as validating the Governor’s order as prudent and necessary. Also, mask wearing is not without adverse health effects and

  6. I would wear a hat with a propeller on top if it would push Northam to open the bars sooner.

  7. I will wear my mask to show my respect for conservatives and libertarians. If they die off there will be no one left to argue with and libs are often no fun.

    • Nah, don’t wanna lose Conservatives just because they’re conservative. OTOH, the more maskless Evagelicals they can pack into a mega-church the better.

  8. Non-aggression compliance means not infecting someone.

    • If someone isn’t infected they’re not infecting any one and should not be required to wear a mask, like 2000 years of civilization has taught us.

      • I suppose you have an LED in your forehead that turns red when infected?

        • We’ve not had one for 2000 years and don’t need govt. overreach now. Part of life, liberty and no unreasonable search and seizure is exactly that. Northam wants permanent masks. That’s the purpose during the General Assembly session later in the summer.

  9. “Conservatives and libertarians tout the virtue of personal responsibility.”
    Yeah they tout, but just like liberals they don’t practice it…
    If they did they would stop smoking and lose a lot of weight so they are not fat, overweight and obese..
    All stuff that is a burden on society..

  10. “In the grand scheme of things wearing masks is a nit.”

    Well yes, if YOU don’t care I guess it is a “nit” . . to you

    May I ask at exactly what level of capriciousness do the edicts of the state rise above “nit’ level to you?

    • What level? When the capriciousness leads to hidden taxes. For example, the unelected administration of a public university charging some students more so they can charge other students less. Unelected bureaucrats capriciously imposing taxes in that case. Politicians who take unlimited campaign contributions from special interests and then write laws and push regulations to benefit those special interests. When the state constitution clearly requires compact and contiguous political districts and that requirement is capriciously ignored by the legislature and then capriciously not enforced by the state supreme court.

      Like I said – there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of things more disconcerting about our government than making people wear masks in stores.

  11. Checked my memory and this was one of the first calls for masks that I read and started listening to: Hans Bader, no less. Way back on April 1. Problem then, as I said then, I couldn’t find them to buy.

    https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/another-call-for-face-masks/

    Liberal or radical is not a word I’d apply to Bader…..

    Back from a nice BBQ lunch on a picnic table outside Mission BBQ. My friend has written “Nov. 3” on the face of his mask. Says that’s when we’ll stop wearing them. 🙂

    • My issue is that it’s the right thing to do yes, however the Governor mandating it is not the proper way to achieve it.

      EO’s at the State and Federal Level have exceeded their authority to make up for the Congress abdicating their authority.

      EO’s merely augment how a Legal passed Laws is enforced, it does not and cannot create Law.

    • and that tells us what we need to know.

  12. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    When can we start the forced vaccination debate? We are up to Executive Order 63. Not much farther to EO 66 for all the Star Wars nuts out there.

    • Mandatory Vaccination was already ruled on by the Supreme Court in Jacobson v Mass (1905).

      The difference there being, he was only fined $5 dollars (obviously a large sum at the time).

      Using Jacobson the same Court used that precedent to sterilize tens of thousands.

  13. To the commenters on this blog who assert that the Governor does not have the legal authority to require them to wear masks, I have good news and bad news.

    The good news: You are right; the Governor does not have the explicit legal authority to require you to wear a mask.

    The bad news: The Commissioner of Health has explicit legal authority to require you to wear a mask and he reports to the Governor.

    Here are the legal citations:
    Sec. 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia: “The Board [of Health] may make separate orders and regulations to meet any emergency, not provided for by general regulations, for the purpose of suppressing nuisances dangerous to the public health and communicable, contagious and infectious diseases and other dangers to the public life and health.”

    Ahh, you say, that is the Board of Health, not one person making such a rule. But, further on, Sec. 32.1-20 of the Code provides:

    “The Commissioner [of Health] shall be vested with all the authority of the Board when it is not in session, subject to such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Board.”

    Furthermore, Sec. 35.1-10 of the Code says, “Nothing in this title applicable to restaurants shall prevent the Commissioner [of Health] from taking whatever action he deems necessary to control the spread of preventable diseases as set forth in Title 32.1, including but not limited to the exclusion of employees, the medical examination of any employee, the immediate closing of a hotel, restaurant, summer camp, or campground, and the taking of samples for testing.”

    The authority of the Governor is not quite as direct. It is reasonable to argue that the Governor, being the head of the executive department, has any power that is provided to any of his department heads. There is likely case law to that effect, but I have not conducted the search for it. Sec. 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia deals with the authority of the Governor to declare a state of emergency. The executive order declaring a state of emergency may include, among other items, provisions addressing the circumstances relating to an order of public health threat that has been issued by the State Health Commissioner. The Health Commissioner did issue such a public health threat order on February 7, 2020 and on March 17, the Governor and Commissioner of Health issued a joint declaration of a public health emergency.

    In summary, the Governor’s legal authority is rooted in the explicit powers provided in statute for the Commissioner of Health and in the Governor having “the authority and responsibility for the formulation and administration of the policies of the executive branch.” (Sec. 2.2-103, Code of Virginia)

    • That would be interpreted as simply a way around the law until he could force the General Assembly to do it. Just like Hitler did – make it legal.

    • There is a fly in the ointment regarding what the Commissioner can and cannot do.

      Ҥ 32.1-20. Vested with authority of Board.
      The Commissioner shall be vested with all the authority of the Board when it is not in session, subject to such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Board.”

      He doesn’t wield that power without review, which is the second clause of 32.1-20 in bold text above.

      Also, the idea that neither the General Assembly nor the Board of Health was convened at the outbreak of this Pandemic is preposterous.

      We are not Rome, we did not dissolve the Republic and appoint a Caesar when the enemy is at the Gate. That is called martial law, and it wasn’t invoked and most likely would not have withstood legal challenge, as it hasn’t yet.

      “The authority of the Governor is not quite as direct. It is reasonable to argue that the Governor, being the head of the executive department, has any power that is provided to any of his department heads.”

      I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption, you’re electing a King is that were the case.

  14. As much as I detest Ralph Northam as a politician his reopening approach has been middle-of-the-road to slightly-aggressive. Restaurants are still closed other than take out in Maryland (and Massachusetts, Hawaii, etc). Maryland’s position is the work of Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Hogan’s addressing Maryland tonight at 5:00 pm so we’ll see if he relaxes some of his edicts. King Ralph is a bumbler who is too quick to try to prevaricate his way out of a mess but on the “COVID19 tyranny scale” he’s about average.

  15. > The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police earlier Tuesday “strongly” opposed a face mask requirement, arguing that it could force businesses to enforce it, potentially exposing them to dangerous encounters.

    Business will be made out to be the villians. Granted, its more snarky but I made this point in the comments a few articles ago:
    https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/no-evidence-to-support-a-virginia-mask-mandate/

    • Very prescient on your part.

    • Very interesting commentary above, all of it. For example, this by Steve: “The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police earlier Tuesday “strongly” opposed a face mask requirement, arguing that it could force businesses to enforce it, potentially exposing them to dangerous encounters.

      Business will be made out to be the villains.”

      So, in practical affect we have a Commonwealth created by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Marshall (to name only a few), that has been hijacked by our elites who have turned it into a kleptocracy that now is run by a interim tyrant with unlimited powers for the duration of his own ill defined emergency, whose length, substance, and solutions are determined exclusively by that illegitimate Tyrant.

      This scheme has been created behind closed doors so that the elites can escape responsibility for all the damage they have caused to the people, while their scheme aggregates their power and wealth, centralizing it long term under that elites’ kleptocracy that now holds all levers of power and wealth in the former Commonwealth of Virginia.

      And now, under an elaboration of their scheme, the interim and illegitimate tyrant, acting in concert with the elites, drops the entire responsibility of enforcing their own illegitimate diktats onto small business owners on the main streets in Virginia so as to discredit those business owner in the minds of their customers, after the elites have drained those very same small business people of their wealth and livelihoods, and often bankrupted them, while destroying the jobs of their workers.

      A more evil and corrupt and destructive exercise of public power in Virginia by its elites is hard to imagine.

      How has Virginia come to this low point?

  16. Dick. You have saved the day

    • Won’t settle a thing. Boring…..way back April 1 I said, mask? Sure, just tell me where to get one….Like DJ plenty of other things bother me more. Watching “Waco” on Netflix….Hey, VN, go check that one out!

      • I don’t have TV, radio, etc. That is including Netflex, Hulu or anything else. Way too busy any way.

        • Well it sure isn’t the version the FBI, ATF or Janet Reno would want people to see. Those people were murdered, just like that poor man in Minneapolis. It ties in with this debate. Americans hate being bossed around, it always creates as much resistance as compliance and ends badly. Reason and argument always work better, along with leading by example (that would be you Gov. N and President T….I saw your wife and daughter with masks, Trump!)

          But, Jeez, the whining about this is such a wonderful example of how the modern Republican party run by you know who is losing ground so fast and racing toward insignificance. But just like in 2016, the Democrats have shown their genius by picking a nominee he can beat.

  17. I’m tempted to ask those who opt not to wear a mask if they pray. No evidence that works, but hedging a bet?

    Politicizing masks is Trump’s brilliant move. There is no way for him to win the pandemic, but he can parse through elements of it to arouse his base. He ought to take on sunscreen next—it’s only for sissies.

  18. I didn’t have time to expound yesterday (have payroll to make).

    Personally, I agree with Mr Bacon on this. With freedom comes responability. Refuse to be considerate of others, and you lose your freedoms. Wearing a mask is not a big deal, unless there is a medical reason to not do so. But, its amazing the adverse reaction people are having (especially 20 somethings.)

    We’ve had masks available for staff for a couple months. Many employees have been refusing to wear them. Early on, we were concerned that manidating masks would violate OSHA rules. On May 30th, some will probably still refuse. Some will lie about medical conditions, but then we have to tread lightly on medical privacy regulations.

    We already have customers telling us they won’t wear the mask. Again, some will lie about medical conditions. I’m not putting employees in the position of being judge or law enforcement. The EO is not clear as to whether businesses are required to enforce the manidate on patrons, but it certainly inferrs it.

    So far, no clear guidance from HD. Our private consulants are saying, unless clearly told otherwise by the HD, don’t enforce the manidate on patrons as it puts employees at risk. Do we log every instance of refusal by patrons, to prove to the HD we’re being compliant? If asked, those patrons that refuse will likley cite “FU” as thier reason.

    Businesses are like the ball in a game of ping-pong, getting bounced between one regulation or another. Regardless of which regulator wins, we end up being paddled.

    Education before regulation goes a long way. Our State Government has been awful about communication. Just saying something is “science based” means squat to people; its a reliance on authority bias, at best, and its no different that when a right-winger tries to tell people its “god’s will” or the “bible tells me so.” Really, its laziness on the part of politically biased egomanics and do-gooders who want to dictate to others without understanding and-or caring about the effects and-or are clueless how complicated our society and economy is.

    Everyone thinks “I’m in the right” and too many don’t care that others disagree (rightly or wrongly.) its not a matter of whether your are right or wrong, its a matter of understanding that people have different opinions. Saying some people are deplorables doesn’t change things.

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