Virginia’s Plan for Reopening – Safer at Home (Mask Order Still in Effect)

Safer at Home: Phase Three began on July 1, 2020.  You can view Phase 3 Business Sector Guidelines here.

Third Amended Executive Order Sixty- Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven are available here.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

Refer to Schools, Workplaces & Community Locations of these FAQs for more information on phased reopening for preK-12 schools.  Detailed information on Virginia school phases can be found in the guidance document available here.

 

Visit COVID-19 and Virginia State Parks for more information related to state parks.

Yes, masks, also known as face coverings, are required in phase three. Executive Order 63, which requires masks while inside buildings, is still in effect. Additionally, Executive Order 67, which addresses Phase 3, specifically states “We must remain cautious—continue teleworking whenever possible, wash our hands frequently, do not touch our faces, and wear face coverings/masks."

All of Virginia, including Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond, entered Phase Two on Friday, June 12. Phase Three began on July 1, 2020.

Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

Visit COVID-19 and Virginia State Parks for more information related to state parks.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Five and Order of Public Health Emergency Six is available here.

Refer to Schools, Workplaces & Community Locations of these FAQs for more information on phased reopening for preK-12 schools. Detailed information on Virginia school phases can be found in the guidance document available here.

Governor Ralph Northam’s guidelines for reopening Virginia is a three-phase plan. Phase One, “safer at home” was implemented on May 15, 2020. Virginia is now in Phase Three. Phase Three began on July 1, 2020.

Under phase one of the plan, general guidelines for “safer at home” included continued social distancing, continued teleworking, and continued use of masks in public. Non-essential businesses like restaurants and salons reopened with limited capacity. Restrictions are a floor and communities may not be ready to take these steps and will have stricter regulations. Businesses must remain closed if they cannot meet the requirements set forth in the guidance. Restrictions are meant to protect workers.

Some parts of the state may keep coronavirus-related restrictions in place longer than the rest of the state.

You can view the Phase 1 slides presented by the Governor here: Forward Virginia – May 8 Update.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-One can be found here.

You can view Phase 1 Business Sector Guidelines here.

You can view more FAQs here.

Refer to Schools, Workplaces & Community Locations section of these FAQs for more information on phased reopening for preK-12 schools. Detailed information on Virginia school phases can be found in the guidance document available here.

Executive Order Sixty-Three issued on May 26th, requires Virginians to wear masks in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Frequently Asked Questions related to Executive Order Sixty-Three can be found here.

The mask order applies to everyone 10 and over and includes:

  • All brick and mortar retail establishments
  • All personal care and grooming establishments
  • Inside any places where people congregate
  • Inside food and beverage establishments
  • On public transportation
  • When accessing state or local government services

Exceptions are provided if you are:

  • Exercising
  • While eating or drinking
  • If you have trouble breathing or are unable to remove a mask without help
  • If health conditions prohibit wearing a mask
  • A person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible
  • Very young children - Adults accompanying minors should use the adult’s best judgment with respect to placing a mask on a minor between the ages of two through nine.
  • When temporary removal of the mask is necessary to secure government or medical services

Documentation to verify the medical condition is not required. More information can be found here.

Any child over the age of 2 years old is encouraged to wear a mask to the extent possible, but it's only required for children over the age of 10. Adults accompanying minors should use the adult’s best judgment with respect to placing a mask on a minor between the ages of two through nine.

Masks help reduce the spread of the virus. As research has continued into COVID-19, more and more health professionals have agreed that masks are critical to continuing daily operations around the country, by reducing the spread of the virus. Phase Three’s success hinges on everyone wearing masks in public settings. Masks do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

Per Executive Orders 61, 63, 65, and 67, the Virginia Department of Health shall have authority to enforce mask requirements. Any willful violation or refusal, failure, or neglect to comply with the Orders, issued pursuant to § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia, is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 32.1-27 of the Code of Virginia. The State Health Commissioner may also seek injunctive relief in circuit court for violations, pursuant to § 32.1-27 of the Code of Virginia. No minor shall be subject to criminal penalty for failure to wear a mask. Furthermore, the Governor directed the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) to develop emergency temporary standards (ETS) to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19, including standards related to respiratory protection for Virginia workers. Virginia Department of Labor and Industry COVID-19 FAQs can be found here. A DOLI webpage devoted to the ETS containing Outreach, Education and Training materials has been set up and is being populated with documents.

Emotions and concerns around personal safety can be high. When it comes to masks, lead through example by following mask guidelines. You can’t ultimately control other people’s choices. The thing you can do is control yourself and do everything you can to protect yourself.

If you have questions or concerns about the mask Executive Order, call 877-ASK-VDH3, then choose selection #2. Do NOT call your local health department. Do NOT contact law enforcement to address alleged violations. If you have observed violations of Executive 63 or Executive Order 67 and wish to file a complaint, fill out the report form located here. Please file only one complaint per incident.

If someone is flouting the rules, appealing to the higher authority of employees and management is an option. Shaming is never good behavior. VDH is taking an educational approach by advising the public and businesses of the requirement to wear masks.

Law enforcement should only be enforcing secondary violations, such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, inciting a riot, etc.

EO 63 only covers businesses and state and local buildings; it is not enforceable outside buildings and businesses. VDH will only take action on willful egregious violations of the Order.

In healthcare settings, healthcare workers wear face shields or goggles to protect their eyes from splashes that might contain the virus that causes COVID-19. Healthcare workers wear face shields or goggles in addition to masks. A face shield does not fit snugly against the side of the face like a mask and should not be used as a substitute for a mask.

There is no scientific proof or evidence that wearing a mask can hurt your immune system.   Masks help limit the amount of respiratory droplets that go into the air to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff have been wearing masks for decades. Disposable masks should be thrown away if they become wet or dirty, and only used one time.   Cloth masks should be washed. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 for more information.

There is no scientific proof or evidence that wearing a mask can hurt your oxygen levels or make you breathe in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Unlike medical N-95 respirators, disposable and cloth masks fit more loosely and air can pass through. They help us by cutting down on the droplets that come out when we speak, cough or sneeze. Masks should not be worn when exercising, by children under two, or anyone who has a health condition that makes it hard to breathe or take off their mask without help. There are some reports of health care workers being affected by wearing N-95 respirators for many hours; however, the public should not be using this type of mask. Wearing a mask may feel weird or uncomfortable because we are not used to it and can be a challenge if it's hot and humid or your glasses fog up.   If you are having a hard time breathing, your mask covering might be too thick. See Using Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 for more information.

It may feel scary or challenging to wear a mask. Talk with your healthcare provider for advice on how to wear masks. It may also be helpful to practice wearing a mask at home for short time periods and taking breaks if you feel anxious. Practicing at home first may help you adjust to wearing a mask in public settings. Taking slow, deep breaths may also help reduce anxiety or stress from wearing a mask.

A mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face and cover your nose and mouth. It should be secured with ties or ear loops and be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape. Masks should be made of more than one layer of fabric that you can still breathe through. One preliminary study showed that 'neck gaiters' did not offer protection from respiratory droplets. More research is needed on the effectiveness of different styles and fabrics of masks.

Masks with one-way exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus.

Please do not buy N95 respirator masks or other medical masks, unless required for your job. They are in short supply and are needed by the medical staff and first responders who are caring for sick people.

Masks should never be used for children under the age of two or by people who have trouble breathing, are incapacitated, or who are otherwise unable to remove the mask without help.

Additional VDH guidance for masks can be found here.

CDC's mask recommendations can be found here.

Considerations for wearing masks can be found here

Page Last Reviewed: October 14, 2020