RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam mandated that all Virginians must wear masks or face coverings while inside businesses starting Friday, May 29.
Northam made the announcement on Tuesday during a coronavirus press briefing, stating that everyone will need to wear masks inside stores, barbershops, restaurants, city buildings, on public transportation or anywhere where people can congregate.
There are some exceptions. You don't have to wear a mask while eating and drinking at a restaurant, while exercising, if you have trouble breathing or if your health conditions prohibit wearing face coverings.
Children 10 years old and older must also wear face coverings.
"This is a public matter. Face masks are an important step to protect others, especially public workers," Northam said during the briefing. “Science increasingly shows us that the virus spreads less easily when everyone is wearing face coverings."
Northam also noted that any enforcement will be by health officials, not law enforcement.
Last week, Northam hinted at this order during a regular coronavirus briefing on May 22. He pointed to a plan for a possible, statewide mask mandate while giving Virginians "homework" over Memorial Day Weekend.
"And so your homework this weekend is to, first of all, have a safe and peaceful weekend," Northam said. "But but also make plans for you and your other family members to have facial protection."
"I think it's fair to say that people have gotten very creative with their facial protections," Northam continued. "Be ready on Tuesday to go out and about in your business when it's essential with facial protection."
The governor came under rapid fire over the holiday weekend for neither wearing a mask nor social distancing while visiting the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Images showed Northam taking selfies and getting close to beachgoers without sporting any protective gear.
His office responded to the criticism, stating that Northam was "not expecting to be within six feet of anyone."
Before this order, Northam encouraged the use of face masks but never made it a requirement.
The Commonwealth started easing restrictions on businesses as it entered Phase One of the Forward Virginia reopening plan.
Under this first phase, churches as well as some retailers and businesses must run at limited capacity. Restaurants can only offer outdoor dining services.
Locally, Hampton Roads cities have worked to create outside dining spaces in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Hair salons and barbershops must also offer their services by appointment only. Entertainment venues and indoor gyms remain closed.