RICHMOND, Va. -- This year's special session comes as the delta variant is causing another troubling surge in coronavirus cases, forcing lawmakers to take precautions in an attempt to stay healthy.
Senators said that the majority of them are vaccinated and they feel comfortable being back inside capitol walls for the first time in `18 months. Many say they feel an extra layer of safety thanks to the safety measures in place.
Inside the Senate chamber, senators sitting next to each other were separated by plexiglass barriers.
However, that isn't the case in the House. From what was observed on Monday, few Republicans in the House had a mask on, while most Democrats were wearing one.
As for how COVID-19 policies are determined, the clerks of the Senate and the House set the rules. In short, masks are not required as of now, but lawmakers can choose to wear one. Those who are unvaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear one.
Lawmakers also don't have to prove if they have been vaccinated and social distancing is not being mandated.
Those who were in attendance had mixed reactions when it came to how safe they felt amid the surge in cases.
"So I do feel like with the plexiglass shields that are in place, I think that they have done everything they can to mitigate any exposure for that, so I do feel safe," Republican Senator Travis Hackworth said.
However, on the other side of the aisle, some noted that personal responsibility should play a role in COVID-19 safety.
"I feel like precautions are in place, but I think everybody has a personal responsibility to do what they can to keep themselves safe and I think everybody should get vaccinated. If you can wear a mask, even if you are vaccinated because there's still a lot of unknowns," Democratic Senator Jennifer McClellan said.
As the surge in COVID cases is a quickly changing situation, it has been noted that masks and COVID policies are subject to change.