RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new public health order in Virginia will require all students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
The new order from State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver was announced on Thursday and will take effect immediately. It will remain in place until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for schools change unless the order is amended or rescinded.
This news comes after several divisions announced plans to make face coverings optional, even though Gov. Ralph Northam said last week that a new state law requires school boards to fall in line with CDC recommendations to keep students safe.
Northam’s assertion was immediately disputed by some Republican lawmakers who said the law leaves room for local discretion.
Northam’s spokesperson Alena Yarmosky said that the new order is meant to provide clarification for school boards who haven’t already complied with CDC guidelines.
“We all share the same goal of keeping our schools open and keeping our students safe,” said Governor Northam in a statement. “That’s why the General Assembly passed this law with overwhelming bipartisan support. This Public Health Order makes it very clear that masks are required in all indoor K-12 settings, and Virginia expects all schools to comply. I’m grateful to the work of the General Assembly and the Health Department, and I look forward to a safe start to the school year.”