It appears Loudoun County and Northern Virginia will enter the Phase 1 reopening phase of the COVID-19 shutdown on Friday, but as residents expand their ventures to area businesses they’ll be required to wear face coverings.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced that new rule during his Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Face coverings will be required for those in indoor public places, an effort to prevent those who may be unknowingly carrying the virus from spreading it to others.
Local deputies and police officers won’t be charged with enforcing the requirement; that duty will fall to the Virginia Department of Health. Northam stressed that criminal charges are unlikely—failing to comply would be a Class 1 misdemeanor with a punishment that could include jail time. The governor said he hoped the General Assembly during its next meeting would create a civil penalty that could be applied.
Northam made the face covering announcement just after he faced criticism for being seen not wearing a mask while posing for photos with individuals on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. The governor said he was walking between events, where he was meeting with local leaders and honoring first responders, when he unexpectedly was approached by passersby who recognized him. He said his face covering was left in his car, as he did not anticipate being in close quarters with anyone. In apologizing for setting a poor example, Northam said he, like other Virginians, is still learning the new COVID-19-era habits.