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Masks mandatory for K-12 students across Virginia

An order from the state health commissioner said masks are required in all school divisions for the fall semester.

RICHMOND, Va. — Editor's Note: Our original story indicated the order regarding masks came thorough an executive order. In fact, it was through an order from the health commissioner. The video seen above is from August 5.

A public health order from the Virginia Health Commissioner Thursday put an end to any question of what masking policies in public and private schools across Virginia should be when the fall semester begins.

Masks are mandatory.

The order lists the risks of COVID-19 and explains how masks slow the spread of the virus before listing the mandate's specific rules.

"The State Health Commissioner ... hereby issues this Order finding that a public health emergency due to COVID-19 continues to exist, and requiring all individuals aged two and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools in order to inhibit spread of the virus, as recommended and described by the CDC," it says.

This won't apply to people who are:

  • eating, drinking or sleeping
  • exercising
  • playing a wind instrument in a music class (these people will need to be spaced 6 feet apart from each other)
  • performing a religious ritual which can't be done in a mask
  • having trouble breathing or are unconscious
  • at-risk for wearing a mask because of a disability or health condition

The order does allow people to request medical or religious exemptions to wearing a mask.

Masking policies to protect against the spread of COVID-19 had been left to the discretion of individual school divisions, but legislation passed in the Virginia General Assembly made masks required. Despite the legislation, some school divisions, including some in Hampton Roads, still planned to make masks optional.

Gov. Ralph Northam addressed the "are they optional" question in a news conference on August 5 by stating that any school division that didn't make masks mandatory would be in violation of Virginia law and that the school division should be prepared to work with its lawyer.

The  order issued by the health commissioner made it crystal clear and left no room for questions.

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