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Virginia updates mask use guidance

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Fully vaccinated Virginia residents are now free to congregate in small outdoor gatherings without wearing a facemask.

Gov. Ralph Northam Thursday amended his COVID-19 guidance to meet new outdoor mask-wearing guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new guidance allows fully vaccinated individuals to be outdoors without a mask when they are alone or in small gatherings.

A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Citizens are still required to wear their masks at large or crowded events such as concerts, sporting events and graduation ceremonies, regardless of whether they are held indoors or outdoors.

Northam’s Thursday amendments also allow up to 1,000 spectators at outdoor recreational sporting events. This change wasn’t scheduled to take place until May 15, but the governor advanced it by two weeks in order to allow more spectators to participate in the final weeks of high school sports and the summer sports season.

“The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along — vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” Northam said. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner. I encourage all Virginians who have not yet received the vaccine to make an appointment today.”

Additional ease on restrictions will take place May 15. Northam said he expects to roll back remaining capacity limits in mid-June if Virginia health metrics remain stable and vaccinations continue to progress.

About 2.9 million, or 39%, of Virginia’s adult population are fully vaccinated and 57% have received one dose of a vaccine, according to Commonwealth figures.

Virginians over age 16 can schedule a vaccination appointment by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).

 

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