Va. officials ‘reviewing’ new CDC mask guidance
State mandate still in place but updates expected soon, governor's office says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — meaning they received their final shots at least two weeks earlier — can stop wearing masks and maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor areas. So, what does that mean for Virginia, where a mask mandate has been in place for almost a year?
A spokesperson at the governor’s office, Alena Yarmosky, said Thursday afternoon that Virginia “will continue to follow CDC guidelines, as we have throughout this pandemic. We are reviewing this guidance and expect to have more updates soon.”
Just after 5 p.m., Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted basically the same message, that the state is “reviewing the new mask and distancing recommendations and will update our guidance accordingly.”
This spring, Northam has gradually lifted other pandemic restrictions — including allowing vaccinated Virginians to not wear face coverings when in small, outdoor gatherings earlier this month after a CDC recommendation — but the state’s current executive order still requires people to wear masks indoors and at large, crowded gatherings outdoors.
However, the state has previously changed other policies swiftly after new CDC guidance, such as opening vaccination to children ages 12 and older Wednesday night only an hour after the CDC approved vaccinating younger adolescents.
Meanwhile, the state’s restrictions on gatherings are about to be partially lifted on Saturday, as announced earlier by Northam. Sports and entertainment venues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity or 1,000 people, and private social gatherings will be allowed to include 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. Also, alcohol sales after midnight will be allowed, and dining rooms will no longer have to close between midnight and 5 p.m.
The governor’s April 22 announcement regarding changes in policy May 15 noted that masking and social distancing were still required.
“Ultimately this reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated,” Yarmosky said Thursday following the CDC announcement. “Vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic, and they are how we can all get back to doing what we love. With the expansion of eligibility to everyone 12 and older, more Virginians can get vaccinated than ever before. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your shot.”