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Virginia students will still need to wear masks indoors, state health commissioner says

As COVID-19 cases surge, CDC recommends universal indoor mask use
Posted at 9:37 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 18:26:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Students will still need to wear masks while in school, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

According to the latest Order of Public Health Emergency issued by Dr. M. Norman Oliver, the state health commissioner for the Commonwealth, anyone age 5 and older must wear a mask while indoors at a public or private K-12 school.

This is in effect from July 1 to July 25.

Public health officials are encouraging Virginians to continue to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and allowed by state law. They say there is no legal barrier to wearing masks to protect oneself and others from the virus, nor should anyone be penalized for doing so.

While the law does not allow people to wear a mask to hide their identity, VDH says the law doesn't prohibit wearing a mask for the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19. This is true even now that Virginia is no longer under a statewide declaration of emergency, which was lifted Wednesday night.

Although Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the universal indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in Virginia on May 28, his office said K-12 students would still be required to wear a mask.

When we reached out to local school districts about their mask policies, they told us they were awaiting further guidance from state leaders on any potential changes.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools told us face coverings were still required indoors and outdoors at its schools and administrative buildings and that all students were required to wear one at bus stops, on school buses and in school buildings. When engaged in outdoor activities VBCPS officials told us mask-wearing is expected when students are unable to maintain six feet of physical distancing. However, when outdoors, students who can maintain more than six feet of physical distancing are allowed to remove their masks.

On July 6, the school district said the following after the order was issued last week:

VBCPS has maintained a rule that whenever students are in a school, everyone must wear a mask in that building, and the health commissioner’s Order reinforces that mandate. There are exceptions to the Order, and mask alternatives or exemptions for medical conditions will be allowed. If you have questions, please contact the nurse in the summer school where your child is enrolled.

This Order is in effect until July 25. As always, we will keep you informed of any updates to this mandate as well as to any guidance regarding the 2021-22 school year.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Norfolk Public Schools also told us they would require all students and staff to wear masks while at the bus stop, on the bus and in school when not eating or drinking. As for their indoor policy, NPS officials said the district's current mask policy would stay in place.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.