CHESAPEAKE, Va. - During an event in Richmond Thursday, Gov. Northam said the state's new mask guidance is "empowering the different localities across Virginia."
The updated guidance puts the decision making power in the hands of local school divisions to decide whether masks are mandatory for kids when they return to the classroom in the fall.
"One thing that we learned during COVID-19 is that one size doesn't fit all," Northam said.
Still, the state is strongly recommending kids under 12 wear masks at school because that age group is currently not eligible to be vaccinated. State officials also say kids 12 and over who are unvaccinated should wear masks. Masks will also be required on school buses due to a federal order.
"We know that masks work. For individuals who haven't been vaccinated, we would strongly encourage them to wear a mask and that includes our children who are less than 12 years old," said Northam.
Local school divisions are in the process of updating their own guidelines. The Chesapeake School Board voted in June to make masks optional if that didn't conflict with a state order. The latest state order expires on Sunday, but it remains unclear if that vote alone means for sure masks will be optional. The school division didn't respond to repeated questions from News 3 on Thursday.
Other school divisions will announce their plans ahead of the school year. Virginia Beach is expected to announce them next month following a heated school board meeting on Tuesday.
Northam emphasizing vaccinations during his event Thursday. "While we know masks are effective, the most effective means of dealing with COVID is to get a shot," he said.