Gov. Northam announces new mask policy during update on COVID-19 in Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond
Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond(WVIR)
Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 1:52 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam is announcing new rules for masks and face coverings to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Virginia.

Gov. Northam began his briefing Tuesday, May 26, by addressing the re-opening of Virginia Beach over the weekend, and how he was seen without wearing a face mask. He says he takes full responsibility, and that he will be better prepared in the future.

Northam announced that starting Friday, May 29, that folks will be required to wear masks inside retail shops, restaurants, personal care and grooming establishments, places people congregate, government buildings, and on public transportation. Exceptions will be allowed, including while eating or drinking, exercising, those with trouble breathing, and children under age 10. The governor stated enforcement would be done through the Virginia Department of Health - similar to health inspections of restaurants - rather than using law enforcement. Governor’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer says they are aware of equity and practical issues of enforcement for this policy, and a special session of the General Assembly is expected later this summer. There is no timeline for how long this policy will be in place.

Gov. Northam's Tuesday briefing. The first few minutes of the briefing were not recorded due to a technical issue.

Other matters mentioned during Tuesday’s briefing included:

  • The governor says his administrator is working to get masks to those in vulnerable populations who need them. He is not asking law enforcement to enforce this, but is asking people to respect one another.
  • Northam says new workplace safety standards are being put together to keep workers and the community safe, including prevention, control, and other standards to prevent spread of COVID-19.
  • Asked if the majority of Virginia will be ready to start Phase Two this coming Friday, Gov. Northam says they don’t have the data to announce that yet.
  • Asked if Sunday’s numbers from the Virginia Department of Health were accurate, Dr. Norm Oliver says it was two-day’s worth of data that was published due to server maintenance over the weekend.
  • Northam was asked if he is being regularly tested for the coronavirus. The governor says he has not been tested to date, but that he looks forward to being tested at one of the community sites in the future and showing people how easy the test is.
  • Dr. Oliver says accurate race and ethnicity data is contingent on the data sent in with the COVID-19 test. The doctor says that has been improving, and a team is working with clinicians and others to obtain accurate data.
  • Gov. Northam is asking the Department of labor to set standards for workplace safety due to the coronavirus, then those standards can be enforced. Workers who feel unsafe should speak with employer, and if no resolution, file a complaint with OSHA.

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