Bill to end school mask mandates in Virginia heads to Gov. Youngkin

A bill to end mask mandates in Virginia schools is headed to the governor, who has said he will add a clause to make it effective immediately.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 12:09 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2022 at 3:08 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A vote on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates now paves the way for masks to be optional inside schools across the commonwealth.

“We’re standing up for your children too. Don’t forget that—every last one of you. You still have an option to send your child to school with a mask. No one is stopping that,” said State Del. Emily Brewer, (R) Isle of Wight.

The measure limits virtual learning in Virginia and allows parents to opt-out of mask usage for their children, and they don’t have to provide a reason.

Democrats tried several moves to tank or delay the measure from moving forward. They say it’s too soon to make masks optional, and future variants could cause issues.

“We should be thinking about what are we doing to ensure that as many kids are in school, learning to the best of their ability all the time that they’re in that school as they can,” said State Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, (D) Henrico.

Republicans say being masked in the classroom is a problem for students. In the end, it was a party-line vote, 52 to 48.

“Children are falling behind educationally. They’re falling short on literacy goals. They’re having issues with facial recognition,” said Del. Brewer.

Now the measure heads to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk. This was a sticking point for the Republican’s campaign - to empower parents. He’s expected to sign and add an emergency clause, so it goes into effect before most bills do, which is July 1.

“I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools. Today, the General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children. After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care,” said Youngkin.

Democrats are now out of options.

“It may be that you read studies that say one thing about a mask and another thing about a mask, and they conflict. But the reality is we’re seeing that germs spread less by distancing, washing hands, wearing masks,” said State Del. Dawn Adams, (D) City of Richmond.

After it’s signed, The General Assembly will consider any recommendations later this week.

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