Indiana’s governor has apologized for posing for a photo with two people in which none of the three were wearing protective masks — a photo taken a day after he issued a plan for relaxing coronavirus restrictions that recommends such masks be worn in public until mid-June.
The photo circulating on social media shows Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb taking the selfie while inside a restaurant Saturday in the southern Indiana tourist town of Nashville, even while his statewide stay-a-home order was still in effect.
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Holcomb said in a statement that he left his mask in the car while picking up his carry-out order from the restaurant after spending the night at the governor’s retreat in nearby Brown County State Park.
“It was a lapse in my usual vigilance,” Holcomb said. “I should have gone back out to the car to get my mask. My apologies to all the healthcare professionals and Hoosiers who are working so hard to slow the spread.”
Oklahoma’s governor faced a backlash in mid-March after tweeting a picture of himself and two of his children at a crowded restaurant the day before he declared a statewide coronavirus emergency.
Holcomb announced on Friday a plan for relaxing coronavirus restrictions, with the goal of allowing nearly all activities to resume on July 4. A new executive order that took effect Monday allows more manufacturers, retailers and shopping malls to reopen in most of the state while directing residents to maintain social distancing of at least six feet and to wear face coverings in public.
Some critics have said they believe Holcomb was easing restrictions too soon and that the photo showed he wasn’t leading by example, as Indiana has had more than 1,200 confirmed or probable coronavirus-related deaths.
“It’s hypocritical to say we’re all in this together, to call on Hoosiers to make sacrifices, and then selfishly ignore your own rules,” said Lauren Ganapini, the state Democratic Party’s executive director.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.