Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the indoor mask mandate in alignment with the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines saying that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask.
Virginia will also ease all distancing and capacity restrictions on May 28, two weeks earlier than planned.
Northam praised Virginians for their hard work during the pandemic in a video message Friday, and he credited strong vaccination numbers and lowered case counts for the ability to move forward.
“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,” Northam said.
According to the guidance the CDC released earlier this week, those who are fully vaccinated “no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. A secondary statement by the Transportation Security Administration said travelers are still required to wear a mask at transportation hubs such as airports and bus stations.
Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, a news release from Northam’s office said, given low rates of vaccination among children. The D.C. area only started vaccinating children 12 to 15 years old earlier this week, following the federal government’s OK of the use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in young adolescents.
“It’s very simple. It’s either a shot or a mask,” Northam said, adding that those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
On Tuesday, there is a statewide day of action called “It’s Our Shot, Virginia.” Northam said Virginians can sign up to be a COVID-19 Community Ambassador or share their vaccination story on social media with the #VaccinateVirginia.
Nearly 7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Virginia. More than 4 million people have gotten at least one dose, representing 63% of the state’s adult population.
Northam said he is confident that the state will meet President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated with at least one dose by the Fourth of July.
Also starting Saturday, capacity at sports and entertainment venues will be expanded, and the limit on social gatherings will be increased. Restaurants may also resume selling alcohol after midnight, and dining rooms no longer have to be closed between midnight and 5 a.m.
The City of Alexandria is proposing an amendment to the city’s current mask ordinance to follow state guidance. It is being considered for adoption by the city council on Saturday.
In neighboring Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state is also aligning with the recent CDC guidelines.
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