Northam lifting mask mandate; capacity, social distancing restrictions to end May 28

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam is lifting the mask mandate for those who have been vaccinated starting at midnight. The date of when all restrictions were going to be lifted has moved forward by two weeks.

Northam says all restrictions on capacity and social distancing are now set to lift on May 28, just before Memorial Day. This will give the state two weeks to get as many more people vaccinated before fully opening up. The restrictions were originally set to lift on June 15.

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” said Northam. “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 state mask mandate will be lifted for those who are vaccinated at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday in accordance with CDC guidance. Those who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a mask.

However, everyone will still need to wear a mask on public transit, in health care facilities and in congregate settings.

Those who are not vaccinated but work in certain sectors, such as retail, fitness, restaurant, personal care/grooming and entertainment venues must wear a mask.

Masks will also still be required in K-12 public schools due to the low vaccination rates among children. Children age 12 and up are now eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine after the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization to include the age group.

Northam said businesses will still retain the right to require a mask on customers and employees.

The state of emergency will remain in place through at least June 30 to give local government flexibility and support during vaccination efforts. Northam said he will also take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date.

Virginia has administered nearly 7 million doses of the COVID vaccines. Hospitalizations, cases and the percent positivity rate continue to fall.

“Virginia is currently reporting a positivity rate of 3.5 percent, which is lower than at any time since the start of the pandemic. The Commonwealth’s seven-day average of new cases is 555, the lowest number in over 10 months. Virginia is currently recording its lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at 684,” a release said.

As of May 14, 64 percent of Virginia adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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