Northam reviewing new CDC guidelines on outdoor masks, no changes to mandate yet

Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond.
Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond.(VPM)
Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 4:28 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Newly released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on outdoor mask wearing has Virginia’s top health officials and Governor Ralph Northam now working to undo the commonwealth’s take on it.

“My first take away is that it’s brand new so we’re still digesting it all,” Virginia Department of Health Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Dr. Laurie Forlano said.

Gov. Northam would have to amend his executive order on the mask mandate. That could happen within a week as health officials dive into the details of the new guidance.

As of now, masks are still mandated outside if you can’t maintain social distancing. Violators could face a class one misdemeanor.

“So that has to be coordinated with the governor’s office, and that’s a bit more involved in getting any changes there that might be necessary,” Dr. Forlano said.

But, in Virginia you’ve been already able to do things like walk and run outside without a mask on.

“We’re still holding on to some of those recommendations for now and I think that’s important because we are still getting there. Not everyone is vaccinated yet,” Forlano said.

Big picture, the rollbacks we are seeing - both now and others we’ve seen more recently in Virginia - are all about creating an incentive to get more vaccination shots in arms.

“What I think it tells us is, you know, this is the future, right? So we can see glimpses of what life can be life after more people are fully vaccinated, and I think CDC’s guidance only reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated and this is our way out of all of this,” Dr. Forlano said.

The governor recently announced that on May 15 the commonwealth will loosen capacity restrictions on social gatherings and for industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, like sports and entertainment venues, as well as restaurants and bars. Now restaurants can also have bar seating.

The Virginia Department of Health says, to date, since the mask mandate has gone into place, only businesses have been notified of mask issues. the department has not charged any private individual for mask issues.

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