Northam Lifts Mask Mandate in Virginia for Fully Vaccinated, Aligning With CDC Guidelines

With increase in vaccinations and decrease in COVID cases, mitigation measures to end May 28

Governor Northam speaks in Alexandria in 2019 (Photo: James Cullum for The Zebra Press)

ALEXANDRIA, VA-On May 14 Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) lifted the universal indoor mask mandate in Virginia. His decision, announced via video, aligns with recent CDC guidance regarding indoor/outdoor mask use for the fully vaccinated. It went into effect at midnight May 15.

The governor also announced the end of mitigation measures in Virginia, planned for May 28, two weeks earlier than expected.

“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 new CDC guidelines state that fully-vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.

The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The governor will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.

Virginia has administered nearly seven million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. More than four million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, representing over 63 percent of the state’s adult population. Northam has said he remains confident the Commonwealth will meet President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4.

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