Doctors, health officials stress importance of wearing masks, following mask mandate

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jun 16, 2020

NORFOLK, Va. - It's been a few weeks since Governor Ralph Northam ordered everyone in Virginia wear masks in public.

Dr. Bradley Harper with the Peninsula Health District is getting the word out about the importance of wearing masks, especially indoors.

“Not only does it protect me, but it protects those around me as well,” Harper said. “We can't relax our vigilance just yet; the COVID virus is still out there.”

Last month, Northam announced an order requiring face masks in public, including stores, restaurants, public transportation and anywhere people can congregate in groups.

They're not required while eating, drinking, exercising or if you have certain health conditions.

The Virginia Department of Health is responsible for enforcing the order.

“We're going to use pretty much social pressure asking people to do the socially responsible thing,” Harper said.

Harper told News 3 he personally has seen people not following the order.

“I've seen a lot of people that are not wearing the mask inside,” he said. “When I go into the grocery store, I'll see people shopping who aren't wearing masks.”

He said the district has gotten calls from people with concerns.

“We get some of both types. Some, no one is wearing a mask. Some, the employees are, but they're not asking customers to wear a mask,” Harper said.

Dr. Bogdan Neughebauer with Sentara Medical Group said wearing masks are important, and not wearing them can be risky.

“Most people who don't have any symptoms, they think that they are safe,” Neughebauer said. “They're taking that risk for themselves, but they don't realize that they could be carriers of a virus and put everyone else at risk.”

According to Northam’s order, those not complying can be punished with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

At a news conference Tuesday, Northam said no misdemeanors have been issued and said he's pleased with what he's seen around Virginia.

“Obviously, not everyone is complying, but I think the great majority of Virginians understand what they're up against,” Northam said. “If we're going to move forward, if we're going to go into Phase Three and beyond, we've got to accept that this is going to be the new normal.”

For Harper, it's important to mask up.

“My statement is I care about you,” Harper said. “If we look at it from that perspective, let's all be kind to one another and do the right thing.”

Harper said if you have concerns about people not following Gov. Northam’s mandate, you can call the Virginia Department of Health at 1-877-275-8343.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.