Sorting through mixed messages on wearing masks in public in Virginia

COVID-19 Vaccine

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization already have conflicting views on whether those who are vaccinated should continue to wear a mask.

But as of Thursday, the law in Virginia is changing regarding mask-wearing.

So, what can you do if you’re not vaccinated? Or if you are vaccinated, but want to wear a mask for your protection?

For travel on planes, trains, and ride-sharing automobiles, a mask is still required. At least one worker at Norfolk International Airport welcomes an extension on the Transportation Security Administration mask mandate.

“It went from it, like, being very slow to, just now, to very large groups of people so the masks are very beneficial,” said the unidentified airport employee.

The public transit mask mandate doesn’t expire until Sept. 13, but what has expired is Gov. Ralph Northam’s waiver of the ban on the wearing of masks in public for criminal intent.

Details have to be worked out by the General Assembly, but the governor says you don’t have to worry about the long arm of the law if you are wearing a mask in public to protect your health.

Virginians are allowed to wear masks for health reasons, and no law prohibits that. However, wearing a mask with the intent to conceal one’s identity — such as wearing one to rob a bank — is illegal, a governor’s office spokeswoman said.

But today, the head of the CDC said even with the arrival of the new Delta COVID-19 variant, you don’t have to mask up if you are fully vaccinated.

“Here in the United States, we’re fortunate. We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective, we have two-thirds of the adult population that is fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden’s health care team. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

But that guidance conflicts with the position of the World Health Organization which says masks should still be worn inside as only 15% of the global population has been vaccinated.

The vaccination rate for the African American population across the state of Virginia, which is only about 39%. A little over 46% of the white population has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

Norfolk Pharmacist Dr. Anna Peoples is on the front lines of the vaccination effort.

She is concerned about the low rate among African Americans.

“And so that presents another problem and that problem is that the virus being spread again and we have an upsurge in infections. I do believe we have to be cognizant of that and we are cognizant of that at the pharmacy. We continue to urge people to get vaccinated; as a matter of fact, we are doing the vaccinations every single day,” said Peoples.

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Correction: The original version of this story included incorrect information about the percentage of the Black population that had been vaccinated. As of July 9, Black Virginians made up 16.1% of the total number of vaccines administered in the state. The percentage of the Black population that is vaccinated with at least one dose was 38.9% as of that date.

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