Virginia Is Reopening. Here’s What You Need to Know About Mask Rules and More.
By Elle Meyers
May 28, 2020

In Virginia, like many other states, deciding when and how to begin lifting coronavirus pandemic restrictions has become deeply politicized. 

Gov. Ralph Northam began lifting some restrictions earlier this month, with most of Virginia entering the first phase of reopening on May 15. Some regions, like northern Virginia and Richmond, opted to wait until their cases declined before a planned reopening on May 29. 

Northam has gotten pushback from conservatives on just about every aspect of reopening. From his new mask order to the timeline on which areas are allowed to reopen, partisans have been vocal in their opposition. Here, Dogwood has compiled the complaints and checked the facts. 

On Masks

Earlier this week, Northam said residents over 10 years old will be required to wear masks in stores, government buildings and on public transportation. This prompted several inaccurate statements from conservatives.

  • State Senator Steve Newman (R): “The Governor claims this new policy is about “science.”  I disagree,” Newman wrote. “All of this talk about wearing face masks in stores and restaurants is merely a distraction from the real issue.”
  • State Senator Todd Pillion (R): “Northam’s mandatory mask order is concerning, particularly when bureaucratic agencies are weaponized to enforce it with little to no oversight,” he wrote.
  • Del. Amanda Batten (R): “So: if you go inside a business without wearing a mask, nothing will likely happen to you. Instead, the business may be shut down by unaccountable bureaucratic regulators.”
  • Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell said in a series of tweets that he will “reluctantly comply” with Gov. Northam’s mask order “but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!”

FACT CHECK: Wearing face coverings, even if they’re not surgical or N95 masks, help to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. The Trump administration, via CDC, recommends residents wear face masks in public settings where social distancing is hard to maintain. That means places like grocery stores, public transportation, pharmacies and any other areas of significant community transmission. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, cloth face coverings help to reduce spread among people who have the virus but might not know it. People who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic continue going about their daily activities and risk exposing other people out in public. In countries that have implemented mask requirements, along with other measures like testing and social distancing have seen success in slowing the spread. You can learn more here.

As for enforcement, Northam said at a press conference earlier this week that law enforcement will not be charged with making sure residents are wearing their masks.

On Reopening in General

Del. Nick Rush (R): “While states around us continue to safely open up, our Governor seems determined to move us backward when initial goals have been met regionally (hospitals are not overwhelmed, the curve is flattened).  It is unfair for him to continually move the goal posts without any regard for the adverse effects on the overwhelming majority of Southwest Virginians,” he wrote.

FACT CHECK: Gov. Northam did allow different regions of the commonwealth to reopen before others. Northern Virginia is scheduled to enter phase one of reopening on Friday May 29, about two weeks after regions in the southern part of the state. Even though some of the harsher restrictions are being lifted, it still makes sense to wear masks to decrease the risk of spreading the virus especially if people start interacting with each other more. Here’s what the CDC has to say

On Restaurants and Small Businesses

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R): “[I’m] visiting local restaurants in Petersburg. It’s heart breaking to see what the governor, along with the support of liberal legislators, has done to Virginia businesses. I’m unapologetically fighting for the “little guys,” We The People, and businesses🇺🇸” Chase wrote on Facebook. 

FACT CHECK: Virginia restaurants have been able to operate with takeout options for the entirety of the pandemic, and in the first phase of reopening, can serve patrons sitting outside. Meanwhile, experts have urged people to think of wearing masks as a favor to others, to protect essential workers and vulnerable members of the population who will be hit harder by the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that he wears a mask in public as a show of respect to other people. 

“You wear a mask, they wear a mask, you protect each other,” he told CNN

For the moment we can’t go back to shopping and dining like we used to but it’s still important to wear a mask to protect workers, wash your hands frequently, and limit your contact with others.

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