Articles

Local officials beseech Trump, Pence to wear masks while in Arlington

Washington, September 1, 2020
Published at the Washington Post

Local officials beseech Trump, Pence to wear masks while in Arlington

By Patricia Sullivan
September 1, 2020 at 2:51 p.m. EDT
 

A Northern Virginia congressman and the chair of the Arlington County Board wrote to President Trump’s chief of staff and campaign manager Tuesday, expressing concern that the president and vice president had attended events in Arlington without appearing to follow Virginia law on wearing masks and social distancing.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Arlington) and Chair Libby Garvey (D) wrote to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, the president’s campaign manager, after Trump and Pence held events over the summer in the deeply liberal county just over the Potomac River from D.C.

“As you know, the country remains mired in a deadly pandemic that has killed over 184,000 Americans,” the letter said, adding: “We are therefore terribly distressed to see President Trump and those around him paying insufficient attention to public safety guidelines and legal orders meant to stop the spread of the disease when they are here in our community.”

White House and Trump campaign spokespeople could not be immediately reached for comment.

The local officials learned of the issue from Pence’s own Twitter account, and from a variety of media reports. Pence deleted a photo that showed him addressing a full room of unmasked campaign headquarters staff.

Staffers told Politico that those rules are often ignored in their office. On Aug. 21, several reporters tweeted that while Trump spoke at a national conference of conservative activists in Pentagon City, few wore masks or socially distanced.

Willful violation of the mask mandate in Virginia is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail. The commonwealth’s health department is responsible for enforcement. Beyer’s spokesman Aaron Fritschner said the congressman has been in touch with the Richmond-based department about the events.

“Our letter is seeking voluntary compliance but we’ve also been in continuous discussion with the governor’s office and the Department of Health about how compliance is going in the congressman’s district,” Fritschner said, adding that Beyer’s office began inquiries after the Pence event.

The letter, which includes footnotes citing the news coverage of the Trump and Pence events, concluded that it is “deeply important to us that everyone when they are in Arlington, including the President and personnel affiliated with him, adhere to public health guidelines … We beseech you to prioritize the health of the people around you, including your own staff and especially, the residents of Arlington whom we represent. The future health of our community may depend on it.”