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Will you be charged with wearing a mask in public after Virginia's COVID state of emergency ends?

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 18:27:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginians will likely not be charged with a crime for simply wearing a mask in public once the 15-month long COVID-19 related state of emergency comes to an end at the end of June.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he communicated with law enforcement agencies that officers should not arrest people for wearing a mask.

"If they feel the need or still need to wear a mask because of not being vaccinated, that's certainly going to be allowable," Northam said.

In Virginia, masks are no longer required in most situations for those people who are vaccinated. Mask wearing is encouraged or required for people who are unvaccinated.

Virginia state code outlaws people from wearing face coverings with the intent to conceal their identity. There are exceptions -- like for states of emergency and medical reasons -- but the latter requires documentation.

"[If you are] wearing a mask in this post-COVID world, generally you're doing it for protection, not to conceal your identity," CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone said.

Stone said the statue has the potential to be abused, but said he hoped it would not be.

Multiple law enforcement agencies in and around Richmond said their officers were being told to follow common sense on the issue.

The Virginia General Assembly must take action in order for Virginia's mask law to be changed. Northam said he expected lawmakers to make the necessary fixes when they convene later this summer for a special session.