RICHMOND, Va. — Everyone in Virginia will need to wear a face cover or mask when inside public buildings starting on Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday.
"I am taking this step because science increasingly shows us that the virus spreads less easily when everyone is wearing face coverings," Northam said.
According to the new requirements, coverings must be worn by anyone 10 years old and older in the following public spaces:
- Personal care and personal grooming businesses, including beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage centers, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are provided.
- All brick and mortar retail businesses, including both essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail businesses.
- Food and beverage establishments, including restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets.
- Entertainment or recreation businesses, including racetracks, historical horse racing facilities, theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement. Face coverings are also required when patrons are outdoors at those businesses if a distance of six feet from every other person cannot be maintained.
- Train stations, bus stations, and intrastate public transportation, including buses, rideshares, trains, taxis, and cars for hire, as well as any waiting or congregating areas associated with boarding public transportation. The requirement does not apply in any area under federal jurisdiction or control.
- Any other indoor public place shared by a group of people "in close proximity to each other." Face coverings may be removed to participate in a religious ritual.
- State or local government buildings when accessed for the purpose of securing public services, with the exception of students in daycare centers or participating in-person classes in K-12 education or institutions of higher education.
There are exceptions to the face-cover rule.
- While eating or drinking
- Individuals exercising or using exercise equipment
- Any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
- Any person seeking to communicate with the hearing impaired
- When temporary removal of the face-covering is necessary to secure government or medical services
- Persons with health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering
"Let me speak to you as a doctor," Northam said. "I strongly recommend any child who is 3 years old or older should wear a face covering to the extent possible. I want to be clear: this is about protecting those around us, especially our workers."
Northam said Virginians do not need to wear masks that are medical grade.
"You can make your own. You can find a plan on the internet. And all you need is a piece of cloth and some rubber bands," he said. "You can even grab a bandana. I know that even these steps are going to be difficult for some of our most vulnerable populations throughout this pandemic. We've seen community groups step up to help out. And I hope that can be the case here. If you're a group that can help provide face coverings to people who don't have them, please consider ways to do that."
The governor called the face-covering order a matter of public health and one that would not be enforced by police.
"This is not a criminal matter," he said, "Our law enforcement, our police, and our sheriffs will not have a role in enforcing this. I'm not looking for people to get in trouble by not wearing a mask, but I am looking for people to please do the right thing. I'm asking people to respect one another."
House Republicans said on Tuesday that they are deeply concerned about the mask requirement.
"We are deeply concerned about Gov. Northam's actions today," a statement read. "It is unconscionable to require businesses to enforce a government mandate under threat of sanction from government agencies. This puts yet another burden on businesses already reeling from months of being shut down or severely limited."
"As I have said from the beginning, we are all in this together. And I just encourage all of you to cooperate as best you can and to be part of the solution. And as soon as we can all continue to work together and get this health crisis in a rearview mirror, we'll be able to return to that near normal," Northam said.
Northam said that because of the incubation period of the virus, it's too early to make a decision about moving most of the state into phase two of his plan to lift restrictions. Northam added that most of the state would remain in phase one at least through Friday.
For more about exceptions and the full text of the executive order, click here.
This story was originally published by WTVR in Richmond, Virginia.