RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said during a Friday news briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic that his administration is working on policy for a statewide mask mandate.
"We're trying to work through some of the details," Northam said. "Obviously, it's an equity issue. We want to make sure everybody has access to a mask. We also want to talk about how we enforce that."
Northam said wearing a mask is essential to protect others when going into a businesses since they are "one of the most vulnerable places."
The Centers for Disease Control advises wearing masks or cloth face coverings "in public settings where other social distancing" is difficult as well as to "slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others."
The governor urged Virginians to get ready for Tuesday.
"And so your homework this weekend is to first of all have a safe and and peaceful weekend," Northam said. "But but also make plans for you and your other family members to have facial protection."
Northam pointed to online instructions for masking a mask or face covering from a bandanna or handkerchief.
If you must go out in public for any reason, please wear a face covering. And remember, wearing a cloth face covering should supplement - not replace - social distancing.— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 13, 2020
Don’t have a face covering? See how to make one below! 👇🏽pic.twitter.com/BZTMIXEB5V
"I think it's fair to say that people have gotten very creative with their facial protections," Northam said. "Be ready on Tuesday to go out and about in your business when it's essential with facial protection," Northam said. "We will make that announcement on Tuesday."
Northam said Wednesday that the state will enforce mandatory mask policies if COVID-19 cases continue to rise and Virginians continue to disregard mask-wearing guidelines.
Friday marks one week since most of Virginia began Phase One of the reopening process.
Northam has said Phase One will last at least two weeks, but he is not expected to announce today if Virginia will begin Phase Two next week. At Wednesday’s news conference, he said he had not picked a date to make that decision, but added he would be looking at the same data that allowed Phase One to begin.
“Obviously, we're watching every day, the trends and now we're, what, five days into Phase One,” Northam said Wednesday. “So, you know, we will continue to watch in the next few days over the weekend and then obviously, you know, with a few days notice, we will let people know whether we're going to go into Phase Two.”
This also marks the last week that Governor Northam intends to hold news conferences on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Starting next week, Northam said he will begin holding news conferences on Tuesday and Thursday. The time of the news conference will remain at 2 p.m.
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.