Virginia Gov. Northam shamed for not social distancing on beach as he hints at mask mandate

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced criticism on social media after appearing in Virginia Beach Saturday without a face mask and not practicing social distancing measures around members of the public.

Northam reportedly visited the beach with Mayor Bobby Dye on the second day of the beach’s reopening, according to local news outlet 13News Now. Virginia Beach's reopening is considered a test to see if people can safely follow social distancing rules before other beaches in Virginia reopen.

But Northam, who previously served as an Army doctor, came under fire when images of him surfaced on social media not wearing a face mask and apparently in close contact with other community members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminded the public this week that the coronavirus mainly spreads person-to-person when in close proximity, while it also revealed that surface contamination is far less likely than previously thought.

According to the state-mandated rules, people are allowed to be outside without a mask when sunbathing, swimming and fishing as long as they remain distant from other parties.

The governor’s office told NBC in a statement: “The governor has repeatedly encouraged wearing face coverings inside or when social distancing is impossible. He was outside today and not expecting to be within 6 feet of anyone.”

The governor is expected to announce new mask protocols on Tuesday, according to an NBC source in the governor’s office.

All inside businesses will have new face-covering requirements as the state slowly returns to business as usual.

The state initiated Phase One of its reopening plan on May 15, but northern Virginia was allowed to wait until midnight May 28 to start reopening, to give local businesses more time to meet the new health and safety standards.

Phase One of the plan still bans social gatherings of 10 people or more, and the recommended social distancing guideline of six feet or more is still in place.

Northam could not be immediately reached by Fox News for comment on his violation of the state’s social distancing regulations at the beach.