Gov. Northam to review policy on mandating masks in public

He’s expected to make an announcement next Tuesday

Gov. Northam to review policy on mandating masks in public

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam is weighing if everyone in the commonwealth should wear a mask in public.

He all but announced it was going to happen as early as next week, but the fine print still needs to be worked out

“Be ready on Tuesday to go out and about in your business when it’s essential with facial protection,” said Northam. “That is becoming clearer as we move further into managing this virus over the long term. Face coverings are an important part of the next steps.”

During a COVID-19 briefing Friday, Northam spent time stressing the importance of wearing a mask when in public.

While it’s become a controversial issue, the Centers for Disease Control says a face-covering does help minimize the spread of coronavirus.

This week, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney sent a letter to Northam asking for a state-wide requirement for masks after city businesses noticed a majority of customers without them. At one point Thursday during a city COVID-19 briefing, Stoney and Dr. Danny Avula linked the lack of uniformity among residents to Richmond’s delayed reopening.

“We’re trying to work through some of the details. Obviously it’s an equity issue. We want to make sure everybody has access to a mask. We also want to talk about how we enforce that,” said Northam.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump declared places of worship as essential and says he would override any governor who keeps them closed.

Northam said Virginia does allow those places to be open, with restrictions. His administration doesn’t believe the comments apply to the commonwealth, but he will monitor.

State-wide community testing will ramp up next week.

The state conducted more than 9,000 tests this week, including one Friday in the City of Richmond, and is expected to test more than 17,000 next week at 44 planned events.

The percentage of positive cases continues to drop - it’s hovering around 15 percent.

“We’re working to partner with pharmacies for testing. And we continue to ensure that doctor’s offices and clinics are able to access testing,” said Northam.

The governor also said he will make decisions next week about if Richmond, Northern Virginia and Accomack County can move into phase one.

REWATCH Friday’s press conference here:

Governor Northam holds COVID-19 briefing on Friday, May 22

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