Virginia and Fairfax County review new guidance on masks for those fully vaccinated

Fairfax County officials say they plan to follow the state government’s lead on how to handle the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines, which now state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors in most settings.

The CDC announced the revised guidelines yesterday afternoon (Thursday) in a move intended to highlight the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We will continue to follow the masking guidance put out by the state and follow the data,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “While there are still times that a mask may be necessary, the vaccine works. This is a strong incentive to get vaccinated if you have yet to do so. It is crucial and effective in protecting your family, friends, and community.”

Virginia officials are currently reviewing the new guidance and expect to issue updates to Virginia’s mask requirements soon, according to Alena Yarmosky, the press secretary for Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“Virginia will continue to follow CDC guidelines, as we have throughout this pandemic. We are reviewing this guidance and expect to have more updates soon,” Yarmosky said in a statement. “Ultimately this reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated. Vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic, and they are how we can all get back to doing what we love.”

The change comes almost exactly one year after the Commonwealth first instituted a mask mandate in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are caveats to the significant loosening of mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, defined by the CDC as people who have gone at least two weeks since their last needed dose.

Fully vaccinated individuals must still cover their face and maintain social distancing when going into doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and congregate settings, such as prisons or homeless shelters. Masks are also still required on public transportation and in transportation hubs like airports.

Nonetheless, the move reflects the progress that the U.S. has made in finally getting COVID-19 under control.

With cases declining locally and statewide, and more of the population getting vaccinated, Virginia already loosened its mask guidelines in April, and several capacity restrictions are set to ease tomorrow (Saturday). Northam plans to lift all limits on June 15 if case rates continue to fall.

The new mask guidance was announced within 24 hours of the CDC — along with Virginia and Fairfax County — expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15.

“With the expansion of eligibility to everyone 12 and older, more Virginians can get vaccinated than ever before,” Yarmosky said. “If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your shot.”

Clinical trials for vaccinating kids under the age of 12 remain ongoing as well.

Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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