Forest, back on the campaign trail, draws maskless crowd in Statesville
The lieutenant governor, who has downplayed coronavirus risks, is back to a more normal event schedule.Posted — Updated
"Huge turnout tonight in Iredell Country!" the campaign wrote on its Facebook page. "People are ready for a change in leadership."
The state is under an executive order that generally requires masks in an effort to stem the transmission of coronavirus. There's also a ban on mass gatherings – no more than 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors – courtesy of orders signed by Forest's Democratic opponent in the November elections, Gov. Roy Cooper.
As of Wednesday, Forest's campaign website lists 18 events between now and Sept. 24. Some of them are indoors, where transmission risks are likely higher. Several include this disclaimer: "Section 4 of the governor's most recent executive order exempts 'activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.'"
It does indeed, though the same section of that order strongly urges organizers to embrace social distancing and to avoid mass gatherings altogether.
Britt said in a text message Wednesday that he didn't have close contact with Forest that day and that the only people he spoke with were senators he sits next to in the chamber, both of whom have tested negative. Other than Britt, there are no other known positives among General Assembly members or staff.
A number of Republicans have complained that their events generate more criticism over potential coronavirus transmissions than the recent mass protests over racism and policing. Those protests have generally been outdoors, with many protesters wearing masks.
They're still considered a transmission risk, though state officials have said in recent weeks that they don't know of cases that tie back to protests.
Cooper isn't holding in-person campaign events, according to his campaign spokeswoman.
"You can't emphasize it too much that actually face coverings work," Dr. Robert Redfield said. "If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks to six weeks, I think we could drive this epidemic to the ground."
The Cooper campaign has a commercial airing now blasting Forest for his mask comments and other coronavirus positions. Among other things, Forest has courted support from the ReOpenNC group, which has protested Cooper's shutdown orders at times by burning masks.
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