- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife, Pamela, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to his office.
- This news comes just hours before President Donald Trump plans to host a campaign rally with some 4,000 attendees at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.
- State health officials have warned that the highly contagious coronavirus could spread easily at such an event, with one calling it “a concerning public health risk.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that he and his wife, Pamela, have tested positive for coronavirus, mere hours before President Donald Trump’s rally at a Newport News airport.
The Northams took nasal swab tests earlier this week after being notified that a residential staff member contracted COVID-19, according to Northam’s office.
The Democratic governor is currently not experiencing any symptoms, but his wife has reported “mild symptoms.” Both will isolate at home for the next 10 days.
“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious,” Northam said in the statement.
Virginia has managed to avoid a recent uptick in cases and deaths that have spread across other parts of the country, notably the south and southwest. As of Friday, nearly 144,300 people have been infected in Virginia and more than 3,130 have died of the disease, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
This news comes on the heels of Trump’s arrival in Virginia for a campaign event expected to draw roughly 4,000 supporters. Northam’s staff and local health officials have urged the president to either cancel or downsize the rally, citing concerns of virus transmission. The event also violates the governor’s executive order that limits public gatherings to 250 people.
“The rally poses a concerning public health risk,” Natasha Dwamena, a Department of Public Health district director, wrote in a letter to the company leasing the hangar at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, where the rally will take place, according to the Associated Press.
Northam’s health and transportation aides also reached out on Thursday to airport officials across Virginia to underscore the fact that they have “the authority to enforce” the state’s laws, AP reported.
Trump’s campaign insists that rallygoers undergo temperature screenings and are provided with masks and hand sanitizer. But images from similar events in Nevada and Minnesota earlier this month show large crowds in which many people don’t wear face coverings or maintain social distance.
“If people can riot in the streets, loot from small businesses, or, in the Virginia governor’s case, take a mask-less stroll along the beach, then they can peacefully gather under the First Amendment to hear the President of the United States address the American people,” Courtney Parella, a Trump campaign spokesperson, told Business Insider in a statement.
Northam came under scrutiny in late May when he was pictured taking selfies with residents during a visit to the Virginia Beach waterfront without a mask. Later that week he issued face-covering requirements in public places.
The governor joins a growing number of state leaders who have contracted the coronavirus. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson revealed that he and his wife tested positive earlier this week, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt did so in July. Both Parson and Stitt are Republicans.
Parson has opposed mask-wearing — a measure known to reduce the spread of the highly contagious virus — and plans to hold a public event at his mansion next week, despite the diagnosis.
—First Lady Teresa Parson (@FirstLadyTeresa) September 25, 2020