Gov. Northam mandates face coverings for Virginians starting Friday

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has mandated for everyone over the age of 10 years old must to wear face coverings starting this Friday, May 29, in congregate settings.

The exception is eating or drinking, exercising, having health conditions that make wearing face masks difficult, or if someone is having trouble breathing while wearing one. Northam said the masks don’t have to be medical-grade, it can be a homemade cloth face covering.

Northam did not have a clear answer on law enforcement of wearing face masks, and said at this time it would be considered a class 1 misdemeanor which can include jail time. But Northam said he wishes to enforce it through the Virginia Department of Health, rather than law enforcement.

The governor’s chief of staff took over and said they do not want to enforce it through the criminal code due to practicality and inequity issues. He said there is likely to be a special session with the Virginia General Assembly this summer to discuss if it can be a “civil code.”

Tweet from WDVM’s Richmond bureau reporter details face covering requirment

He received some backlash on Saturday for not wearing a face mask to Virginia Beach. He opened his Tuesday update by addressing this.

“I visited the oceanfront with intention to speak to the mayor,” reporters and other officials, Northam said. He said “well wishers” came up to him asking for pictures during his visit and he was not prepared with his mask. Northam said next time he will make sure to have it.

He said Virginia’s percent positivity rate is trending downward, which means the percent of people who are testing with positive results is decreasing.

Northam said his plan with allowing Northern Virginia to move to Phase One of reopening is still on track for this Friday. Most of Virginia has already been in Phase One for about a week now, which means the areas are under a safer at home advisory rather than the previous stay-at-home order.

Watch a full replay of Gov. Northam’s update on Tuesday, May 26:

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