RICHMOND — If you’re fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and outdoors, Gov. Ralph S. Northam says it is OK to shed your face mask, as long as you are alone or with others who have completed the regimen.
On Thursday, the governor amended his mask order to align with federal guidelines released earlier this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone who is considered “fully vaccinated” — meaning they are two weeks removed from their last or only dose of the vaccine — is safe to be outside without a mask as long as they are alone or in a small group with others also fully vaccinated. Masks still would be required in crowded outdoor settings such as concerts and sporting events.
“The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along—vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” Northam said in a statement released by his office. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner.”
Speaking of outdoor events, Northam changed the effective date of new guidelines for outdoor sporting events from May 15 to immediately accommodate this weekend’s slate of state high-school football championship games as well other spring and summer events. Now, up to 1,000 spectators can gather at these venues, the governor said in relaxing his previous order.
The other guidelines set to be changed May 15, such as increasing limits at indoor gatherings, will stay on the original schedule.
The Virginia Departmet of Health reports as of Thursday that 3.7 million Virginians, which is 57% of the state’s total population, have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. That includes 2.5 million Virginians fully vaccinated, VDH said.
When Northam announced the relaxed guidelines a week ago, he expressed hope that by June, the limits could be rolled back all the way. His office said Thursday that the governor still expects to meet that goal, “as long as the commonwealth’s health metrics remain stable and vaccination progress continues.”
Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is the news director of The Progress-Index, located in his hometown of Petersburg, Va. He is also the breaking-news coordinator and has been known to “nerd out” over political news coverage and history. Contact Bill at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI, and subscribe to us at progress-index.com.