After urging Virginians to wear masks when in public, Gov. Ralph Northam acknowledged he should have worn one himself while visiting Virginia Beach on Saturday.
Photos circulating on social media showed Northam, a Democrat, without a face covering on while visiting the oceanfront over the Memorial Day weekend. He stood in close proximity to several beachgoers for photos, breaking social distancing. Republicans criticized Northam, a physician, for not practicing the public health precautions he has asked residents to follow.
“Physician, heal thyself,” tweeted House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah.
Alena Yarmosky, a Northam spokeswoman, said in a statement Sunday that the governor should have had a mask with him in case he came into close proximity with people.
“The Governor has repeatedly encouraged wearing face coverings inside or when social distancing is impossible. He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone,” said the statement. “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.”
As recently as last Friday, Northam stressed the importance of wearing masks for the safety of others when out in public. He has indicated he will issue a broad mandate pertaining to face coverings on Tuesday.
“Wearing a mask could literally save someone else’s life,” he said last week.
Northam also said last Friday that his “homework” for Virginians was to procure face coverings for themselves and their families over the weekend.
The number of people across Virginia who have contracted COVID-19 rose to 36,244 Sunday, an increase of 495 from a day earlier, according to the latest figures made available through the Virginia Department of Health.
The number of people who have died from the coronavirus across the state rose to 1,171 in the new figures, an increase of 12 from Saturday.
Since March, 1,012 people in Richmond have tested positive for the virus, 130 have been hospitalized and 19 have died.
In Chesterfield County, 1,193 people have tested positive, 73 have been hospitalized and 29 have died.
In Henrico County, 1,146 people have tested positive, 176 have been hospitalized and 118 have died.
In Hanover County, 252 people have tested positive, 46 have been hospitalized and 19 have died.
As of Sunday, 1,351 people were hospitalized across the state because of the virus, according to figures made available by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. More than 5,100 patients have been hospitalized, recovered from the disease and been discharged.
Virginia also reported its second known case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, which has been confirmed in dozens of children across the country.
The second case, like the first, is in the Fairfax Health District. The illness is severe and in some children can cause multiple organ failure, heart damage and toxic shock. The first child in Virginia with a confirmed case was discharged from the hospital and is recovering.
Read more COVID-19 data on the VDH website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus
Reporter Mel Leonor contributed to this story.