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Northam lifts VA’s mask mandate

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has lifted the state’s universal indoor mask mandate and announced Virginia will soon be easing all social distancing and capacity restrictions as a result of the coronavirus. 

Northam’s announcement, according to a press release distributed late Friday, May 14, aligns with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which say fully vaccinated adults are now safe to gather without masks in most indoor and outdoor settings regardless of size. 

According to the release, the mask updates will be reflected in an amendment to Executive Order 72 which will become effective at midnight Friday. 

Officials also said Virginia will be easing all distancing and capacity restrictions Friday, May 28, two weeks earlier than planned. 

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so — the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed.”

The release says new CDC guidelines state 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. 

Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments, and employees who work in certain business sectors — including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and entertainment — must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully-vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.

The release adds the state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. 

Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools given low rates of vaccination among children.