Virginia lifts mask mandate, will end COVID-19 restrictions on May 28 – Inside NoVA

Posted: May 16, 2021 at 1:05 pm

Virginia is ending its universal mask mandate and will lift all COVID-19 mitigation restrictions on May 28, two weeks earlier than planned, Gov. Ralph Northam announced late Friday afternoon.

In a brief video message, Northam said the state would follow the new guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Preventionand no longer require fully vaccinated Virginians to wear masks indoors, except in certain circumstances, effective Friday at midnight. The move comes about 11 1/2 months after Northam put the mask mandate in place in late May 2020, as COVID-19 cases were soaring statewide.

Northam said businesses may still require patrons to wear masks indoors and that masks would still be required to be worn in schools. He cited the low rates of vaccinations among children as a reason for continuing to require masks in schools. Vaccines were just approved this week for adolescents aged 12 to 15, and no vaccine has been approved for children under age 12.

Northam previously had announced a plan to lift all of the state's coronavirus restrictions, such as capacity limits indoors and social-distancing requirements, on June 15. However, based on the state'simproving numbers, he said the restrictions would all be ended on May 28. This will follow a previously announced easing of many restrictions beginning tomorrow.

"Virginians have been doing the right thing and we're seeing the results," Northam said in the video. The state's number of new COVID-19 cases is at its lowest level since early last summer, and Northern Virginia's numbers are at their lowest since the first month of the pandemic.

"The vaccines are clearly working and they are saving lives," Northam said.

Nearly 4.1 million Virginians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and over 3 million are fully vaccinated. Northam urged all Virginians to get vaccinated.

"It's very simple," he said. "It's either a shot or a mask. It's up to you."

The CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities and in congregate settings. Employees in certain sectors including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated under the CDC guidance.

Northam's office said in a news release that Virginia's state of emergency for the pandemic will remain in place at least through June 30 to give local governments flexibility and support vaccination efforts. Northam plans to take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date, as masks typically are otherwise illegal in Virginia.

Watch Gov. Ralph Northam's video update ending Virginia's mask mandate.

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Virginia lifts mask mandate, will end COVID-19 restrictions on May 28 - Inside NoVA

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