Gov. Northam says Virginians ages 10 and up will be required to wear face coverings inside all brick and mortar stores, salons and barbershops, public transportation and more starting this Friday, May 29.
Northam made the announcement during Tuesday’s press conference in Richmond, after hinting at the requirement at last Friday’s presser.
Face coverings will also be required inside restaurants, except when eating, Northam says. He’s also encouraging face protection for children ages 3 and older.
After the announcement a reporter pointed out that some are saying Northam doesn’t have the “moral authority” to announce the ban after not wearing a mask near groups of people at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Northam claimed he left the mask in the car.
“I was not prepared – I am responsible for that. The next time, I will be better prepared. But this is not just about me – this is about all Virginians and their public safety.”
Northam says law enforcement will not have a role in enforcement, which will fall on the Virginia Department of Health, though he wasn’t able to provide specifics.
The Eastern Shore District Health Department is currently overwhelmed tracking the virus locally and also trying to track down individuals who made contact with those who tested positive for the virus.
His chief of staff, Clark Mercer, said criminal code wasn’t the way to go, citing issues with equity and practicality. He said the Department of Health can give a warning, and then use the courts to try to pull a business license. For private businesses, the Department of Labor has the power to pull business licenses or take a business to court if mask use is a recurring problem and a business is “grossly negligent.”
Mercer says he believes the General Assembly should consider passing legislation during an upcoming special session this summer to beef up civil code to help with enforcement.