Face coverings now required in public as officials eye workplace safety regulations

Virginians now are required to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Sixty-Three to that effect. He also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19, and signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.

The new executive order supports previous actions Northam has taken to respond to COVID-19, and is intended to ensure workers and consumers are protected as public health restrictions are gradually eased.

“We are making progress to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

A face covering can be anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals.

Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

Under the executive order, any person age 10 and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following:

Personal care and grooming businesses

Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail, including grocery stores and pharmacies

Food and beverage establishments

Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open

Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas

State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services

Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

Exemptions include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; exercising; children less than 2-years-old; those trying to communicate with a hearing-impaired person and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children aged 2 and over are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering to the extent possible.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Health will enforce the mask requirement.

Northam also is directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.

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