Court upholds Virginia’s mask mandate after challenge from Fauquier winery owner

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White protective sterile face masks on vintage wooden board.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/mihalec)

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Attorney General Mark Herring on Tuesday said he has successfully defended Virginia’s “mask or face covering requirement” against a legal challenge brought by a Fauquier County winery owner.

“Wearing a mask is such an easy, effective way to help control the spread of COVID and to show your fellow Virginians that you care about the health and well-being of your friends, neighbors and community,” Herring said in a statement.

Philip Carter Strother brought the suit on behalf of Philip Carter Winery, challenging Gov. Ralph Northam’s ability to order the use of face coverings, and claiming the order conflicted with the criminal statute barring the wearing of a mask in public “with the intent to conceal his identity.”

Strother sought an injunction to opt out of the mask law at his winery.

On Tuesday, Judge Jeanette Irby of the 12th Judicial Circuit denied the request.

Irby ruled that the governor’s powers “do not preclude him from issuing orders requiring face coverings, and in fact, VA CODE ANN 182.3-422 explicitly anticipates such an event.”

She also found that there “is no conflict between the criminal code and the executive order” because the executive order provides a specific purpose for the mask — “facilitating the protection of one’s personal health” — that makes the mask law inapplicable.

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