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Gov.-elect Youngkin reiterates plans to rescind mask mandates, 'press back' against vaccine mandates ahead of Inauguration Day

Glenn Youngkin
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-14 18:34:33-05

RICHMOND, Va. - News 3 anchor Kurt Williams sat down with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin ahead of his Saturday inauguration to talk about his plans for when he assumes office.

Youngkin stressed the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine as the omicron variant surges in Virginia, but also said he doesn't plan to mandate the vaccine, saying his administration plans to "press back" on President Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandate.

"Please get the vaccine," he said. "My wife and I have gotten the vaccine. We've gotten the booster. It's the best way to keep ourselves safe."

"We're not going to mandate it," he added. "I don't think people should get fired for not getting the vaccine, and in fact, you've seen us stand up and press back on President Biden's initiatives that are in front of the Supreme Court."

Youngkin expressed worry that Biden's vaccine mandates could cause a shortage in healthcare workers, saying, "In our healthcare system, thousands of healthcare workers have not been vaccinated. If President Biden's order is maintained, they will have to be fired. In a system being overwhelmed right now, could we think of anything worse to do than in fact having to let loose critical workers in our healthcare system?"

When asked if he plans to lift mask mandates in school districts, he said he does, but added that the governor cannot ban mask mandates.

"We are going to rescind the mandate that requires K through 12 children to wear a mask to school, and we've been quite clear about that," he said. "The way Virginia works is that the governor cannot ban mask mandates — schools make those decisions. We will then make sure schools allow parents to exercise their rights for what's best for their children, to opt out of those mandates."

Another controversial issue is Youngkin's nominee to head up Virginia's environmental policies: Andrew Wheeler, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under then-President Donald Trump.

When asked if he plans to stick with Wheeler and how he will convince the Virginia Senate to not shut down the nomination, Youngkin said he's "frustrated" about judgments against Wheeler.

"I'm absolutely sticking with and backing Andrew Wheeler," he said. "I get frustrated at this moment, because Virginians stood up in November and made a very clear statement that we're tired of partisan politics trying to judge people based on whose team they've been on or who their former boss is. It's happening again now, and it's not correct."

"Andrew Wheeler is going to be a fabulous secretary of our natural and historic resources," he continued. "He will work for me, and we're going to press forward with the agenda that I promised all Virginians."

Youngkin will be sworn in as governor Saturday, January 15.

Click here for full coverage on the 2021 Virginia elections.