Virginia’s Plan for Reopening – Safer at Home

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 face coverings 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 One slides presented by the Governor here: Forward Virginia – May 8 Update

You can view Phase One 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.

The timeline for Phase One and subsequent phases will be determined by monitoring health data. The following measures will be monitored to determine when it is safe to progress to the next phase:

  • Number of cases
  • Number of positive tests, and percent positive
  • Percent of cases hospitalized
  • Bed and ICU capacity
  • Availability of PPE

You can view data for these measures on the VDH webpage: Key Measures

You can also view the data briefing slides presented by the Governor: Data Briefing – May 4, 2020

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.

Phase One guidelines sectors are available 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.

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

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

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

Executive Order Sixty-Eight and Order of Public Health Emergency Eight are available here.  This order places additional restrictions on the Eastern Region,  effective 12:00 a.m., July 31, 2020.

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, face coverings are required in phase three. Executive order 63, which requires face coverings 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."

Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.  The most important thing to do to lower the risk of exposure is maintain social distancing.

Executive Order Fifty-One was amended, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.

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

Frequently Asked Questions related to Executive Order Sixty-Three can be found here.

The text of amended Executive Order Fifty-One is available here.

The new face covering/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 face covering/mask without help
  • If health conditions prohibit wearing a face covering
  • 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 face coverings on a minor between the ages of two through nine.
  • When temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to secure government or medical services

Any child over the age of 2 years old is encouraged to wear a face covering 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 face coverings on a minor between the ages of two through nine.

Face coverings help reduce the spread of the virus.  As research has continued into COVID-19, more and more health professionals have agreed that face coverings are critical to continuing daily operations around the country, by reducing the spread of the virus.  Phase One's success hinges on everyone wearing face coverings in public settings.  Face coverings 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 face covering 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 face covering. Furthermore, the Governor directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards 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 face covering 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 65 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 face coverings.

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 facemasks. A face shield does not fit snugly against the side of the face like a facemask or cloth face covering and should not be used as a substitute for a facemask or cloth face covering.

There is no scientific proof or evidence that wearing a disposable mask or cloth face covering can hurt your immune system.   Face coverings 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 face masks for decades.  Disposable masks should be thrown away if they become wet or dirty, and only used one time.   Cloth face coverings should be washed.  See Cloth Face Covers for more information.

There is no scientific proof or evidence that wearing a disposable mask or cloth face covering can hurt your oxygen levels or make you breathe in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide.  Unlike medical N-95 respirators, disposable masks and cloth face coverings 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.  Face covers 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 face cover 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 face covering.  Wearing a face covering 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 cloth face covering might be too thick.  See Cloth Face Covers for more information.

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

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s mask recommendations can be found here.

Considerations for wearing cloth face coverings can be found here

VDH guidance for face coverings can be found here.

Page Last Reviewed: July 29, 2020