RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is ordering that Virginians wear masks while in public indoor spaces, saying the measure is needed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Northam said at a news conference Tuesday that he’s ordering masks be worn starting Friday inside all retail stores, while using public transportation, and in any other indoor places where people congregate.
Northam joins governors in several other states, including neighboring Maryland, who have issued similar requirements.
Northam’s mask order will be largely voluntary, as the governor said he’s not going to allow any criminal prosecutions of anyone not complying.
Northam’s impending announcement comes after the Memorial Day weekend where the Governor received criticism for not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask.
“The Governor has repeatedly encouraged wearing face coverings inside or when social distancing is impossible. He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone,” a spokesperson told CBS 6 when asked for comment, adding that the Governor should have brought a mask with him during the visit.
A Virginia law enforcement group is encouraging on Northam to reconsider the mask mandate due to “unintended negative consequences” of mandating masks inside businesses.
“Please leave this decision up to the business community and our local governments to make this determination for the citizens we serve,” said Dana Schrad, Executive Director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
In a letter to Northam, the group says the mandate could destroy police/community relations, result in an unnecessary risk of exposure to officers, and could put business owners in a no-win situation:
“This is a Governor’s order that private businesses don’t just have to comply with, they have to enforce. Law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to place officers at the entrance to or inside every open business to enforce a mask order. It will be up to the businesses and their untrained employees to confront someone who isn’t wearing a mask to either compel the violators to wear a mask or expel them from the premises. As we have seen in other states, this has led to confrontations between businesses and their customers, even in one case leading to a shooting death at a Dollar Store.
By the time our officers are called to the stores, the confrontation already will have occurred. If the violator is still there, the officer can charge him with trespassing, but if the violator won’t leave, then the officer has to forcibly remove him from the store. Of course, this now creates a close contact situation between the officer and violator, which results in an unnecessary risk of exposure. If and when that happens, we lose our officers to a 2-week quarantine period.
Wearing a mask, social distancing and limited trips outside the home are the best advice we can give Virginians, and we should continue to recommend these prevention measures. However, turning good advice into a mandate that has to be enforced with trespassing citations and physical removal of violators destroys police/community relations and puts business owners in a no-win situation: either be prepared to confront people you value as customers, or avoid the risk of a potentially violent confrontation by keeping your business closed.”
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.