RICHMOND, Va. -- The Centers for Disease Control on Friday recommended the voluntary use of non-surgical masks in public as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.
Some states have made it mandatory for those out and about on essential business to wear a mask or personal protective equipment (PPE) to lower the chance of spread.
Federal officials are suggesting that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when people go outside — for instance, at the grocery store.
However, Virginia has a law on the books preventing the wearing of masks due to criminal activity.
"We know that during times such as these, people are going to need to protect themselves, whether they have symptoms or not. No law enforcement will bother anybody because they have a covering on their face, I can assure you of that,” said Governor Ralph Northam at his COVID-19 briefing Friday.
Northam said he encourages Virginians to wear masks to protect themselves.
“If someone has a scarf or another means of covering their face, we know that this virus is transmitted by droplets. Whether we're coughing, sneezing, even now breathing, some of our epidemiologists have told us. So, I certainly wouldn't discourage anybody if they're out of their house for an essential reason, especially if they're around other individuals to cover their face,” he explained. “I think not only would protect them, it would protect others around them. So I would encourage that to happen.”
CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone says during the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor has the power to make changes to the law that coincide with the times we are living in
“The General Assembly specifically put a provision into that code section that allows the governor, when there's a state of the emergency declared, to expressly waive the provisions of the mask law. So that's something the governor came do, would expect that we could see that come out of the governor’s office. They can put their own parameters on it, a time period where it is allowed, specific circumstances where it’s allowed.”
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.