Executive Order Sixty-Three, signed by Governor Ralph Northam on May 26 in Richmond, requires Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
In his address to the Commonwealth, Northam said, “We are making progress in containing COVID-19. Now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent. 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.”
Anything that covers the mouth or nose, such as a bandana, scarf or mask, is considered a face covering. Personal protective equipment is highly encouraged to be reserved for healthcare professionals. There are exceptions to the Executive Order. They include people who are exercising and individuals who have a health condition that prohibits a face covering.
On May 15, the Commonwealth entered Phase One of Forward Virginia. The guidelines state that retail and beverage establishments, as well as restaurants, are allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin working with one patron per service provider and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. As long as social distancing is adhered to, on-site shopping at any farmers market will be permitted too. Employers have been instructed to provide face coverings to their employees.
Drive-in services may continue at places of worship as long as they’re held inside at half capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found at www.governor.virginia.gov.
Theatres, performing art centers, concert venues, museums and other indoor entertainment centers are some of the businesses that will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Ralph Northam, who holds the distinction of being the nation’s only doctor as a governor, said the Phase One policies are a floor, not a ceiling. “The data shows that Virginia as a whole is ready to slowly and deliberately ease some restrictions,” he said.
Approximately 1,600 Virginians are currently hospitalized with either confirmed COVID-19 tests or pending test results. Those numbers, said Northam, suggests that the state has flattened the curve on the coronavirus outbreak.
“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home, but our work is not done,” he said. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees and customers. It is important for Virginians to act cautiously – especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions.”
Last weekend, Governor Northam was seen interacting with Virginia Beach residents without covering his face. When asked to address what some consider flat-out hypocrisy, Northam said, “People held me accountable and I appreciate that. In the future, when I’m out in the public, I will be better prepared. We’re all forming new habits and routines, and we’re all adjusting to this new normal.”