Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that the state will lift its universal indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, following updated CDC guidelines. The state has also pushed its date for lifting all capacity and social distancing restrictions up to May 28, two weeks ahead of the previously announced date of June 15.
According to Northam, the administration strongly recommends, but will not require, that unvaccinated people continue to wear a mask in public situations. People will also be required to wear masks in settings mentioned by the CDC, including healthcare, public transport, correctional facilities, K-12 settings and homeless shelters.
Individual businesses can still require masks for their employees and customers, and can refuse service to customers if they refuse to wear a mask.
Retail, restaurant, personal care, fitness and entertainment employees will also be required to continue masking unless they are fully vaccinated.
The Northam administration said Virginia's state of emergency will expire June 30. In Virginia, masks are not allowed in public unless there is a state of emergency; the administration is working out a solution to allow people to continue masking if they want to after the state of emergency expires.
The administration also said it has ruled out the idea of issuing a vaccine passport at the state level, but businesses will be allowed to ask for proof of vaccination.
"Virginians have been doing the right things and we're seeing the results," said Northam in a video statement posted on Youtube. "It's either a shot or a mask. It's up to you."
On May 15, other changes will take place to the COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia. Click here to see the changes to gatherings that will happen before May 28.