Governor Northam’s latest emergency order, requiring the wearing of face masks, has caused a lot of confusion and consternation. The order requires wearing a covering of your face in most public places, however there are several exceptions to the order.
The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to following:
- While eating or drinking;
- Individuals exercising or using exercise equipment;
- Any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance;
- Any person seeking to communicate with the hearing impaired and for which the mouth needs to be visible;
- When temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to secure government or medical services; and
- Persons with health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering. Nothing in this Order shall require the use of a face covering by any person for whom doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety because of a medical condition.
Any person who declines to wear a face covering because of a medical condition shall not be required to produce or carry medical documentation verifying the stated condition nor shall the person be required to identify the precise underlying medical condition.
It does not require most employers to have employees wear masks while working. The only employers that are required to have their employees wear masks are retail businesses. However, the order requires patrons to wear masks (except as provided above).
I have received reports that some stores are requiring everyone to wear masks, with no exceptions. These stores are private property and the owners may set their own standards, within reason, if they wish; however, they may become targets for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) discrimination lawsuits if they do not provide accommodation for those with health conditions.
This order is different than previous orders in that it will enforced by the Health Department and the Department of Labor and Industry instead of law enforcement. Because of this some of these businesses are probably afraid of being shut down, then having to file lawsuits to try to reopen, which may explain why some of them are not allowing any exceptions.
You can read the actual order at: https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-63-and-Order-Of-Public-Health-Emergency-Five—Requirement-To-Wear-Face-Covering-While-Inside-Buildings.pdf
STATE OF EMERGENCY
Virginia has been mostly shut down under a state of emergency since March. At first, I think most Virginians were supportive of measures designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We were hearing news of hospitals in China and Italy being overwhelmed with victims of the virus and needed to take action to make sure that did not happen here. Since then, we have learned a lot more about the virus and how to treat it.
According to the numbers, while the virus can be a significant threat to senior citizens and those with other health issues, most of the population will not have a serious issue with the virus. As testing for the virus has expanded, they are finding many people already had the virus and did not realize it; they thought they had a cold or a case of the flu and recovered without serious problems. In short, if you are not a senior citizen and are in good health, you have little to fear from the virus.
Instead of continuing to impose restrictions on the general population, we should focus on protecting the vulnerable population, and let the rest of Virginia get back to work. It makes no sense to continue to restrict and shut down businesses, forcing people to lose their jobs and health insurance, when most of them would not have a serious problem even if they got the virus. Forcing people into poverty will be more deadly than this virus.
I invite your attention to an article, written by a medical doctor last month, explaining the hidden health consequences of this shut down: https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/494034-the-data-are-in-stop-the-panic-and-end-the-total-isolation?fbclid=IwAR0aF9UIAPYAX2EbpITAztIPVve_4c0TuKfOYW1CVNaMjNIcK_XLAwy0Zq0#.XrW9WL1-9G0.facebook
Advice from the Virginia Department of Health on how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus can be found at this web page: