Andrew Pennock, a public policy professor at the University of Virginia, said Northam’s political quandary is more about compliance than the election. Democrats in Northern Virginia, where vaccination rates are higher than they are in redder parts of the commonwealth, probably don’t need to be persuaded to be more cautious, Pennock said. But ­places where mask mandates would be most beneficial — the less-vaccinated areas — are also the most likely to buck them, he said.

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