RICHMOND, Virginia (WRIC) – Governor Ralph Northam updated the Virginia mask mandate to align with new federal guidelines, allowing fully vaccinated people to do without a face mask in most settings from Saturday.
Companies will always have the power to require their employees and customers to wear masks. They can also ask for proof of people’s immunization status before they enter, according to Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky. However, Yarmosky said the administration officially excluded statewide vaccine passports.
Under the new decree, employees in certain regulated industries – including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and entertainment – must continue to wear a mask unless they are fully immunized. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose.
“I urge all Virginians who are not yet vaccinated to do so – vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19,” Northam said in a video Friday. “The message is clear: vaccinations allow us to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we missed.”
The changes to mask requirements will take effect at midnight, when Virginia eases restrictions on capacity limits at sporting events, gatherings and entertainment venues.
Northam said he also plans to lift all capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements by May 28. two weeks earlier than expected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask change took officials by surprise, with the governor’s office saying Northam was not told of the decision until it was announced Thursday.
According to CDC guidelines, Virginia will still require that fully immunized people wear masks on public transportation, in health and correctional facilities, and in homeless shelters.
People who are not vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask in public but will be strongly encouraged to do so anyway, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Masks will continue to be required in K-12 schools due to low vaccination rates among children.
Republican State Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) disputed this.
“We should let parents and school boards individually make these decisions for our children,” he said.
Coronavirus case have dived regularly in Virginia because vaccinations have increased. According to the Virginia Department of Health, nearly half of the state’s population has received at least one dose and nearly 37% have been fully immunized.
“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results of our high vaccine numbers and the number of cases drastically reduced,” Northam said Friday. “That is why we can safely move the timeline for the lifting of mitigation measures in Virginia forward.”
The Virginia branch of the National Federation of Independent Business issued a statement after Northam’s announcement, applauding his decision.
The NFIB statement says, “Small businesses are excited to know Virginia will fully open its doors sooner rather than later.”
The NFIB always asks questions about workplace safety rules and how that order affects them.
“However, what is not clear to companies is that they will always be held accountable for the permanent workplace safety rules the state has imposed on them to combat the exposure and spread of the coronavirus now. that Decree 72 will be repealed on May 28? The last thing the government should do when small businesses try to reopen is continue to impose irrelevant regulations.
This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.