RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that Virginians will no longer have to wear a mask when alone or in a small group outdoors. This change to Virginia’s mask mandate matches new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week.
The CDC guidelines say fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks outdoors with the exception of crowded activities. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.
The state and the CDC are still recommending that masks are used at large or crowded outdoor events such as a concerts, sporting events or graduation ceremonies.
“The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along—vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” said Governor Northam in a statement. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases have made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner. I encourage all Virginians who have not yet received the vaccine to make an appointment today.”
Following Northam’s Thursday announcement, outdoor recreational sporting events will be able to have crowds of up to 1,000. This cap was set to go into place on May 15 but is now effective immediately instead. According to the release, the change going to affect early will let spectators watch the end of the current high school sports seasons, such as high school football state championships happening this week.
Other restrictions changes previously identified by the governor will still be made effective on May 15. According to Northam’s release, the capacity limits still in place after May 15 are expected to be rolled back by mid-June if vaccination and health metrics stay promising.
COVID-19 cases were on a sharp downward trend after hitting a daily case average of over 6,000 in mid-January. The total cases reported each day plateaued at a rate of around 1,300 to 1,500 a day in March through the middle of April. Now state COVID-19 data shows that daily cases have been decreasing over the last two weeks with today’s 7-day moving COVID-19 cases average sitting at 1,051.
All Virginians are now eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine and 43.9% of the population have received at least one dose. There are over 2.5 million people fully vaccinated from the virus in the Commonwealth. Just over 74,000 doses of vaccine are administered to people each day.