RICHMOND, Va. - Glenn Youngkin's administration has announced the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education's new COVID-19 guidance for parents, educators and schools.
The guidance covers preschool through twelfth grade.
It drops the mask mandate and leaves the choice of masking students up to parents, as described in Youngkin's Executive Order 2.
The executive order is set to take effect on Monday.
The updated guidance includes emphasizing mitigation measures such as vaccination, distancing and outbreak awareness.
It also encourages programs such as "Test To Stay" to keep kids in the classroom and help them get back to school sooner after an exposure.
The new guidance also gives schools flexibility on strategies like contact tracing and distancing.
The only time masks are mentioned in the guidance are at the beginning of the document as a prevention strategy for parents, not school officials or staff.
It also comes up in the last of nine recommended preventative actions listing the potential benefits of masking and drawbacks.
The document says the following, in part:
Parents should consult with their medical providers if they have questions about whether or not their child should mask and for how long.
Delegate Jeff Bourne said that the way that the guidance came out is backward. He said he believes guidance should have been issued before an executive order was issued.
"I think it was a rush to judgment. And I think he was playing to a political base into a political issue so we could check a box from his campaign," Bourne said. "This is just another example of how much confusion, chaos and consternation that he has caused the very people that he suggests he wants to help which are the parents."
Bourne said that wearing a mask is a matter of looking out for your neighbor.
"We have to recognize that we have a higher calling as good people, right, and the mass has always been about not protecting myself to the greatest extent but it's really protecting others," Bourne said.
The Virginia Education Association has come out saying they oppose the governor's order.
Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield Education Associations are to hold a joint news conference on Monday discussing COVID-19 concerns.
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