RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia physicians today called on Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, to start fully supporting public health strategies that reduce COVID-19 infections. Sixty medical professionals throughout the commonwealth signed a letter urging Youngkin to stop undermining protective measures like vaccines and masks as he has by expressing opposition to mandates for them.
“As physicians, we are extremely concerned that Glenn Youngkin is doing what many of those in his party continue to do, and that’s to dismiss science-based safety measures that can protect health and save lives,” said Dr. Rommaan Ahmad, a pain management physiatrist in Alexandria and Virginia State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “Doctors, nurses and health professionals across Virginia are working around the clock to keep families safe from COVID-19, and we need every safety tool in the public health toolbox to reduce infections and help us slow the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, instead of using his massive platform as the Republican candidate for governor to encourage everyone to wear masks and get vaccinated, Mr. Youngkin instead chooses to encourage opposition to these measures that could be saving lives.”
The letter notes that Youngkin’s “recent public statements on COVID-19 raise serious concerns,” including his campaign promise to block schools from implementing safety measures such as wearing masks and requiring vaccinations. Youngkin also claimed that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s support for businesses requiring eligible employees to be vaccinated amounted to “bullying.”
“Scientific studies are unequivocal in showing masks and vaccination prevents covid and death and other complications,” said Dr. Stewart Pollack, a cardiologist in Albemarle County. “Terry McAuliffe understands this and is a clear advocate for masks and vaccinations to protect Virginians. Glenn Youngkin also knows this and was vaccinated earlier this year, and has suggested vaccines for friends and followers. But he has chosen to put politics over sound public policy.”
Youngkin’s refusal to let schools, businesses and local communities implement safety measures such as masks and vaccinations borrows a page from policies in states such as Florida and Texas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are currently pursuing an anti-mask, anti-vaccine-mandate COVID-19 strategy.
Florida’s 7-day average for cases rose to more than 25,000 per day on Sept. 6, up from 21,000 a week earlier, while deaths rose to 469 per day, up from around 300 a week earlier. In Texas, ICU beds statewide are near capacity, with 94 percent of them in use as of last week, and no ICU beds were available in central Texas at the start of this week, the first time the region has run out of beds since the pandemic began 18 months ago. More than 600 Texas children were hospitalized with COVID-19 this past weekend, a new record.
“Our colleagues in Florida and Texas have warned their governors to change course because they see how an anti-mask, anti-vaccinations strategy can sicken and kill masses of people, and here in Virginia, physicians are calling on Mr. Youngkin to open his eyes and face the reality that his model strategy for COVID-19 will sicken and kill people,” said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist near Arlington. “The COVID-19 Delta variant is raging across many states, and Mr. Youngkin’s hands-off strategy will only add gasoline to the wildfire of disease outbreaks. We strongly urge Mr. Youngkin to change his tune, tell his supporters that COVID-19 is nonpartisan and should be taken seriously, and ask everyone to mask up and get vaccinated.”