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Face masks become mandatory Friday

In an effort to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he is ordering that face coverings be required in public indoor settings, beginning Friday.

The governor is also directing the state Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19, a release from Northam’s office stated.

Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration. The original order was set to expire on June 10; the new order signed Tuesday “shall remain in full effect until amended or rescinded by further executive order.”

“We are making progress to contain the spread of COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our commonwealth.”

A face covering includes anything that covers nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals, according to the release. Under the governor’s Executive Order Sixty-Three, any person aged 10 and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:

—Personal care and grooming businesses;
—Essential and non-essential brick-and-mortar retail including grocery stores and pharmacies;
—Food and beverage establishments;
—Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open;
—Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas;
—State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services, and
—Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are close to each other for more than 10 minutes.

Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. It is strongly encouraged that children over the age of two wear a face covering to the extent possible.

Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly, the release stated.

Northam is also directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces.