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Editor’s Note: When the Masks Come Off

Politicians behaving badly

In the Talk of the Town section of Queen City Nerve’s Sept. 16 email newsletter, I wrapped a segment on recent COVID-19 numbers by stating, “All you folks out there showing your mouth are showing your ass,” meaning wear a mask and don’t put others in harms way. It’s been less than a month since I wrote that and I’ve been seeing way too much ass.

The most bewildering part about all this ass-showing is that it’s coming from our so-called leaders — and I mean all of them! From the White House to the Senate campaign trail to a local dive bar full of elected officials, it seems that every which way I look these days I’m being let down by leadership.

Let’s start local. On Monday, Oct. 5, Mayor Vi Lyles and a group of four city council members — Larken Egleston, Julie Eiselt, Malcolm Graham and Tariq Bokhari — along with a few other folks on the city’s payroll, wound down after a day-long meeting by heading to Hattie’s Tap & Tavern. The idea was to show support for a business that had struggled through seven months without being able to open their doors. Not a bad idea.

We at Queen City Nerve make no secret of our love for Hattie’s, and we recently had owner Jackie DeLoach onto our Nooze Hounds podcast to discuss the struggles she’s faced while having to watch so many other establishments around town open for business. So it’s no surprise that someone from our team was there on Monday — Q.C. Nerve publisher and Nooze Hounds cohost Justin LaFrancois — to witness how this good idea wasn’t implemented all that well.

It began with Mayor Lyles showing up to the front door without a mask, then having to return to her vehicle to grab one when the doorman told her that she couldn’t come in without a face covering, which she certainly should have known already.

Once inside, Bokhari began cracking condescending jokes about the bar that he had allegedly come to show his support for, stating that he could surely buy drugs in the establishment but not a “bougie drink,” according to the group’s bartender, who also later stated that the group had to be told repeatedly to put their masks on while they were up and moving around the space.

Even upon leaving the bar that night, Mayor Lyles got up to say her goodbyes and walk out, still without a mask. A table full of people yelled at her from across the patio to please put her mask on.

DeLoach had only opened her bar for the first time two nights before this visit, and she and her team were diligent about enforcing the rules throughout the weekend and on that Monday night. Yet still, imagine the blowback on her team if this well-intentioned trip to The Plaza led to an outbreak among council members and other city staffers.

The blame would be placed on Hattie’s and Gov. Cooper’s hasty reopening plan, and DeLoach would surely have to shut down again — quite possibly for good.

Our city leaders should be the ones setting an example. I have no problem with council members showing their public support for a small business like Hattie’s, but the mayor should be more aware than anyone of the rules regarding how to move through public spaces.

To their credit, council members Egleston and Eiselt were reportedly good about their mask usage. I’m not writing this piece to “cancel” any elected officials for how they acted that night, but to remind them that their actions in this time matter.

This is something we all get through together or not at all, and if we can’t depend on city leaders to set that example, who can we depend on? Certainly not the elected officials further up in the governmental hierarchy.

By now, we’re all familiar with the superspreader event that was the Amy Coney Barrett nomination ceremony in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26. It’s suspected that this is where both President Donald Trump and our own U.S. Senator Thom Tillis contracted COVID-19.

To his credit, Tillis has been a relatively ardent supporter of wearing masks — for a Republican, anyway — but he’s repeatedly slipped up on practicing what he preaches in public.

He was seen sitting in a crowd at an indoor Republican National Convention event without one, and publicly apologized after those pictures were published. At the Rose Garden ceremony, Tillis sat stubbornly in his mask among a hundred or so others around him who refused to wear one.

Good for him, right? Not so much.

Other photos from that day show that, as soon as he got inside, where the risk was exponentially higher, the mask came off. And now as I write this, he’s in quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test, like so many others who attended the Sept. 26 event.

Masks have been repeatedly proven to contain the spread of COVID-19, so one would think this should not be a difficult thing to do. It’s not all that uncomfortable. It’s the most minor inconvenience, without which we would still be stuck in lockdown.

So I beg of you, those in positions of power and those not in the spotlight, wear a mask and stop showing your ass.

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  1. Disappointed in the mayor. Not surprised in the least with Tariq as he really seems like a spoiled brat in need of a spanking. As for Larken, the man of many excuses, stop whining!

  2. Column states Egleston was reportedly good about mask usage, but that’s him standing in the photo without a mask. Hatties has signage stating Masks Required while Standing.

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