“It’s a serious virus, but it’s a virus. It’s not a pandemic,” said Good (R), who will become Virginia’s newest congressman in the 5th Congressional District on Jan. 3. “It’s great to see your faces. You get it. You stand up against tyranny.”
Good’s denial of the existence of a pandemic flies in the face of an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections, which have claimed the lives of nearly 300,000 Americans — including more than 300 in Good’s congressional district, according to a Washington Post analysis of coronavirus data.
Hospitalizations are up 18 percent in Virginia since last week, and experts fear an increase in fatalities will soon follow.
But Good continued to encourage masklessness and reject the need for any restrictions in a string of Twitter statements on Sunday, in which he noted that the 300,000 deaths represented “less than 1/10th of 1% of Americans.”
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, stressing that a pandemic is not triggered by a certain level of death or destruction but by worldwide spread.
Good could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. On Sunday, he suggested that coronavirus precautions were a “hoax” that would not impact who lived or died, while comparing the risk of catching the virus to the risk of getting in a car crash. He noted that the government does not ban cars — but he did not address seat-belt laws, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly pushed in the 1960s to minimize deaths in crashes.
“We have got to stop the insanity, and stop accepting the hoax that says forcing people to wear a mask, forcing businesses to close, prohibiting worship services, and keeping kids out of school will make a significant difference in whether or not we will die from this virus,” Good wrote on Twitter.
His Democratic opponent, Cameron Webb, a doctor who treats covid-19 patients at the University of Virginia Medical Center, called Good’s rhetoric “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“I’ve seen firsthand the devastation COVID-19 causes,” Webb posted on Twitter.
As the virus has raged through Virginia in recent weeks, at least one elected official who was skeptical of restrictions changed his view after getting sick.
In Hillsville, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mayor Greg Crowder took to Facebook after testing positive, expressing regret that he had not taken the virus seriously.
“I bragged about how I hadn’t let this virus [change] my life,” he wrote Dec. 8, after running a fever as high as 104 for a week. “I can tell you it has now. I never could imagine how bad a muscle and joints could hurt . . . I’m sharing this so maybe someone with the mind set I had will give the virus the respect that it deserves, not to fear it but respect it. [Wear] your mask when out, wash hands every chance you get.”
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) read Crowder’s post at a news conference Thursday. On Friday, the mayor posted that he’d gone to the hospital but was sent home, and that his fever later spiked to 107.
“After seeing what condition our health facilities are in right now is beyond pure frightening. Every hospital in the area is overflowing,” he wrote. “They said they would like to keep me but didn’t have room.”
On Sunday, a note on his Facebook page said he’d been admitted to the hospital overnight. The message asked for prayers.
Good showed disdain for virus precautions throughout his campaign, opting not to wear a mask or encourage them at his events, and saying businesses should not be restricted in the interest of limited spread.
When questioned by a reporter at an Oct. 22 rally about why he did not take precautions at the events, he said, “I think we’re all seeing conflicting information on whether or not masks help or hurt.” He did not cite evidence showing masks were harmful.
Good won the GOP nomination by defeating Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) at a convention, attacking him as not conservative enough for the district after Riggleman officiated a same-sex wedding in 2019.
In an interview Monday, Riggleman called Good’s comments denying the pandemic “dangerous,” saying his own 83-year-old grandmother is hospitalized with the virus and pneumonia and his father and stepmother had it, too. So did his daughter’s boyfriend.
“When you put out disinformation like this, it goes from pandering to possibly endangering others,” Riggleman said. “There’s a pandemic. I think sometimes there’s an overreaction by governors, sometimes there’s an under-reaction by governors. But it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a pandemic.”
Good’s far-right platform, as an immigration hard-liner opposed to LGBTQ marriage equality, caused some division among Republicans in the district who had been loyal to Riggleman, who leans libertarian.
But the more right-wing factions of the party are increasingly breaking with the outgoing congressman, who was censured by a local GOP committee over the weekend for his role at the 2019 wedding between two of his campaign staffers.
The Appomattox County Republican Committee also unanimously censured Riggleman for criticizing Trump’s refusal to denounce the conspiracy-theory group QAnon; calling Trump’s claims of voter fraud false; and initially refusing to concede to Good in his own race. Riggleman had charged the convention was “rigged” because it took place in Good’s turf in Lynchburg — only a sliver of which is within the 5th District — at a church that has ties to Good.
Good — a former banker at CitiFinancial, wrestling coach and athletics fundraiser at Liberty University — was one of more than a dozen speakers Saturday at Freedom Plaza, where thousands gathered before marching to the Supreme Court to protest the justices’ rejection of a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn Trump’s loss in the presidential election.
Good alleged a vast, shadowy conspiracy perpetrated by Democrats to steal the election from Trump — claims for which there is no evidence and that have been rejected by scores of federal and state judges and Attorney General William P. Barr.
“How many votes did they steal? As many as they needed,” Good said.