It seems like the laws on wearing masks are always changing. Is it illegal to wear a mask in public in Virginia? Is it legal? What are the Virginia face mask laws right now?
Let’s dive in and look at the history of mask laws in Virginia, as well as where we are with COVID-19 mask orders today.
GENERAL LAWS ABOUT MASKS
Did you know that mask laws existed before the COVID-19 pandemic? The Commonwealth of Virginia considers it to be a crime if you cover your face in order to conceal your identity from others. It is actually a Class 6 Felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Reasons—There are some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons this law was put into place:Concealing one’s identity is often associated with committing a crime.
- For instance, a bank robber who is arrested can be charged with robbing the bank and an additional crime of concealing his identity under a mask.
- Traditionally, Klu Klux Klan (KKK) members wear masks as part of their costumes; under this law, they are not allowed to wear their masks in their meetings or in public.
- This law is meant to quite literally unmask criminals. So even if you are not engaging in criminal activity, we suggest not walking around in dark alleys or into banks with a ski mask on.
- Exceptions—You might be thinking, “But what about Halloween costumes?” and the lawmakers did think of that already. Here are the exceptions to the mask rule:
- People wearing traditional holiday costumes.
- People working in professions where masks are required for safety.
- People in the theater.
- People at masquerade balls.
- People who have specific medical conditions if one or both of the following is applicable:
- Their doctor orders a mask to be worn, for the person’s own health and safety.
- The governor declares a disaster or state of emergency due to a public health situation.
This raises the question: once the pandemic is over, will people be allowed to wear masks like we have been, unless they have a doctor’s order? We don’t know the answer to that yet; but be assured that when we do, your local Harrisonburg lawyers, Cook Attorneys, will be actively defending you and your rights.
EXECUTIVE ORDERS ABOUT MASKS DURING COVID-19
With a series of executive orders in 2020 and 2021, Gov. Northam of the Commonwealth of Virginia invoked that final exception in the law and declared that Virginia residents are required and allowed to wear masks in public, to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Additionally, the executive orders included Virginia stay at home orders and a Virginia curfew time.
The Virginia mask mandate states that…
- Indoors: All people aged 5 and older must cover their mouth and nose with a mask. (This does not apply to people who live in the same home.)
- Outdoors: All people aged 5 and older must cover their mouth and nose with a mask when they cannot stay at least 6 feet away from others. (This does not apply to people who live in the same home.)
LATEST INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT MASKS
With the ever-changing and ever-updating orders, it can be confusing to know what the rules are for today. Cook Attorneys has your back.
The latest instructions in the most recent executive order about wearing masks reiterated the rules above, but they include the following exceptions:
- A person who is eating or drinking.
- A person who is under 5 years of age.
- A person who is exercising or using exercise equipment.
- A person who is playing a musical instrument with their mouth, though that person must maintain 10 or more feet of distance between him or herself and other people.
- A person who cannot breathe or is unconscious or incapacitated because of the mask.
- A person communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the mouth needs to be visible.
- A person who needs to take it off temporarily for government or medical reasons.
- A person with a health condition or disability that prohibits wearing a mask (and no one is allowed to demand why or ask that they provide proof of that health condition).
Mask laws can be updated any time based on the situation. Contact us for a consultation and clarification on Virginia mask laws or 2021 Coronavirus updates in Virginia.
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