People, businesses in Charlottesville navigate through confusion of new (un)masking guidance

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:40 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginians who are fully vaccinated will soon be able to leave their masks at home, but while the state mandate is lifted at midnight on Friday, May 14, some businesses could still require them.

This is all in accordance with CDC guidelines, so it only applies to those who are fully vaccinated. Governor Northam says businesses will still have the right to require a mask on customers and employees, like many stores did during the day on Friday while waiting for the official word from the state.

“It’s a very confusing situation but I guess we have to live with it until things sort out a little bit,” Robert Gardner said. He was one of the many people who shopped at Martin’s Hardware on Friday.

Martin’s is one of the many places in Charlottesville that still required masks on Friday, based on the statewide mandate.

“Just until we hear that, we just ask customers to wear their masks and social distance even if you’ve been vaccinated, just until the governor says it’s the okay to lift everything indoors,” Chris Davis said.

Davis is the assistant manager at Martin’s Hardware. He says they decided to play it safe until Governor Northam gave the green light.

“Sometimes, businesses can either be shut down temporarily or even fined if they found out we don’t abide by the rules and everything,” Davis said.

Davis says they have already seen plenty of people try to walk into the store maskless, citing the CDC’s guidance.

“Some people are understanding and some will go ahead and put one on on. if we asked them to,” he said. “Then, you get some people that would rather not.”

Once Virginia’s mask mandate is lifted, UVA Law professor Margaret Riley says businesses have the right to ask for proof of vaccination.

“You can actually make conditions on entering any business, especially a private business, but even within certain conditions public places, based on safety,” Riley said. “This would fit into that category of the safety piece.”

She says many people will not be able to argue it is an invasion of health privacy.

“This isn’t a question of privacy because the business doesn’t owe you any obligation to maintain any details about your health privacy,” she said. “We’re all going to have to make decisions about our individual risks.”

We can look forward to a number of other restrictions easing up on May 15, including bars and restaurants being able to serve alcohol past midnight.

In two weeks, on May 28, the governor will lift all pandemic restrictions.

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