Northam to allow state of emergency to expire, mask law changes expected in August

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 2:37 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s a sign the commonwealth is emerging from the pandemic: the end of the state of emergency.

“I thought it was time,” said Governor Ralph Northam, (D) Virginia.

But, the end of the state of emergency at the end of this month also means Virginia’s anti-mask law goes back into effect.

“We’re going to encourage law enforcement to say, ‘look we know that there are people out there that haven’t been vaccinated, they still need to wear a mask and please allow them to do that,’” said Northam.

In Virginia, the governor cannot change the code without The Virginia General Assembly. Governor Northam expects this issue will be addressed when the legislature reconvenes for a special session in the first part of August.

“I think we need to change the law to allow masks for the health pandemic. There’s some talk about repealing the law altogether, so we’re definitely going to take some action,” said State Senator Jennifer McClellan, (D) 9th District.

Sen. McClellan said lawmakers could be poised to change others laws post-pandemic that highlighted inequities.

Meanwhile, law enforcement across the state, including The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police agree changes need to be made to the state’s current mask law.

“There is probably some change in our lifestyle forever and that’s that masks are going to be a permanent part of our lifestyle going forward,” said Dana Schrad, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Law enforcement in the Richmond-metro area told NBC12 they will follow the advice from the governor, so don’t expect a slew of arrests on July 1.

“That is not something anyone should be concerned about when it comes to law enforcement,” said Schrad.

The state is following CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, so if you aren’t vaccinated, you should be wearing one. And businesses can still require a mask, no matter your vaccination status.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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