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Gov. Northam’s office, health officials react to packed Bedford County meeting

Officials allowed more than 70 people with hardly any masks, no social distancing

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Monday’s jam-packed boardroom in Bedford County – with no social distancing and hardly any masks -- is drawing mixed reaction across the state.

“If people want to do, it’s a free country. They ought to be able to do what they want to,” said Jimmy Pendleton, a Bedford County resident.

“I think that’s being irresponsible and not thinking about other people,” said Carolyn Brown, another resident.

Governor Northam’s office thinks it was irresponsible, too, releasing a statement saying in part, “Governor Northam’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of Virginians, and he will continue to base his response on public health expertise. The science is very clear -- the larger the gathering, the greater the chance that attendees are exposed to, and spreading, COVID-19.”

Bedford County Chairman John Sharp allowed more than 70 people at the Board of Supervisors meeting, claiming they were following Virginia Department of Health guidelines because the group was only together for a short time.

“We limited it to the 15-minute citizen comment period, and 95% of the people left after that was over,” Sharp said Monday.

But the VDH says that was 15 minutes too long. A spokesperson clarified the rule to 10 news, saying groups of more than 25 people should not gather -- regardless of the amount of time.

Smaller groups are expected to maintain at least six feet of social distancing, and those ages five and older should wear masks.

Sharp had other ideas for the community.

“I suggest you all enjoy Thanksgiving just as you would normally. I’m having friends over. I suggest you not wear your mask, because I never wear mine,” Sharp told the crowd.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for December 14.


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