Northam: mandatory masks starting Friday – COVID Briefing Summary: May 26, 2020

 [Earlier today, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police urged the Governor to not issue a mask mandate for businesses.]

[FULL TEXT: Gov. Northam’s Executive Order requiring masks in public]


• The Governor will issue an executive order requiring face coverings/masks in public places to go into effect this Friday, May 29, 2020.

o Exemptions include eating or drinking at a restaurant, exercising, if you have a health condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, and children under the age of ten. 

o However, the Governor recommends that any child three years of age or older should wear a face covering when in public. 

o Workers in most settings will be required to wear masks. 

o The order will be enforced by VDH and local health officials, not by police or law enforcement. 

• Northern Virginia (NOVA) and Accomack County are expected to enter Phase 1 this Friday. 

• The Governor is in communication with the City of Richmond on when it can enter Phase 1. Unless the Governor takes further action, the Phase 1 delay for Richmond will expire on Friday. An announcement is expected in a couple days. 

• The Commissioner of Labor and Industry will draft emergency temporary standards for safety in the workplace. 

• Since Friday, COVID-19 numbers have continued to be “directionally correct.” Percent positivity is trending downward, hospital capacity is sufficient, testing is increasing, and hospitalization is trending down, including in Northern Virginia. 

• Virginia Beach beaches opened on Friday after agreeing on a comprehensive safety plan. 

• The Governor stated that the city and beach guests performed well, kept their commitments, and can be a model for the state and country. 

• The Governor is working with Norfolk, Hampton, and other beach cities as they prepare to open their beaches as early as this weekend. 

• The Governor stated that he takes full responsibility for his actions in Virginia Beach over the weekend. 


• 39,342 total cases

o 1,615 new cases since last reporting period 

• 1,236 total deaths

o 28 new deaths 

• 298,270 tests conducted

o 8,366 new PCR tests 

• 5,643 African American cases

o 253 deaths 

• 12,354 Latino/x cases

o 106 deaths 

• Demographic trends are unchanged. 

VDH computer servers underwent maintenance and upgrades over the weekend; when they came back online, two days of data had to be added to the website, leading to the appearance of a jump in numbers. 


• The Administration is working to provide masks to targeted at-risk populations. 

• The Administration will work with the General Assembly, when it is expected to reconvene in July or August for a special session, on how to enforce the face mask order through civil law, rather than criminally. 

• The face mask order can be enforced by complaint/reporting through VDH and business licensing agencies. 

• The Governor’s Education Work Group is looking into face coverings in schools. 

• On Sunday, the five NOVA jurisdictions sent the Governor a letter stating that they have met the four metrics for entering Phase 1. Accomack County also says it is ready to enter Phase 1. The Governor plans to allow NOVA and Accomack County to enter Phase 1 this Friday. 

• The City of Richmond also sent a letter to the Governor exploring whether and how it may be able to enter Phase 1 on Friday. 

• Phase 1 does not require businesses or places of worship to open—they can choose to open but do not have to. 

• Public health data does not yet support entering Phase 2 in the rest of Virginia. The Administration is looking at when the state may be able to enter Phase 2, but for now Phase 1 will go through at least this Friday. 


• Workers who do not feel safe or comfortable in the workplace should first talk to their employer and then if necessary, file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which notifies local offices. 

Next briefing: Thursday, May 28 at 2:00PM. 

NOTE: This is an informal and timely summary of the Governor’s live press briefing. To access recordings of the briefings, visit To access the Governor’s official news releases, visit 

Prepared by Commonwealth Strategy Group for the Virginia Press Association.

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