News & Politics

Virginia Will Require Face Coverings Starting Friday

There will be exceptions, Governor Ralph Northam said, but most people should plan to be masked when out.

Photograph by VCU Capital News Service, via Flickr.
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Beginning Friday, Virginia will require people in buildings open to the public to wear face masks as part of its reopening plans, Governor Ralph Northam announced Tuesday. Those buildings include retail establishments, salons, places “where people congregate,” on public transportation, and when conducting state business. The coverings can be simple cloth masks or even bandannas, Northam said, and he does not intend to have police enforce it–enforcement will fall to Virginia’s Department of Health, which will have jurisdiction over any businesses that do not comply.

There are exceptions–people will not be required to wear masks while eating in restaurants or while exercising, if they’re having trouble breathing or if they have health conditions that preclude wearing one. Children under 10 will not be required to wear face coverings, Northam said.

One reporter at the press conference asked Northam whether he had the “moral authority” to order face masks when he was photographed without one this weekend. Northam said he was “unprepared” for selfies demanded by “well-wishers” in Virginia Beach and would be sure to wear a mask in the future. He took responsibility–“people held me accountable, and I appreciate that,” he said.

Northern Virginia could take part in Phase One of Virginia’s reopening as soon as Friday. Northam said Virginia, the District, and Maryland are in “constant communication” about the pandemic.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.