Virginia issues new Executive Order regarding masks and facility restrictions
By a new Executive Order 79 (“EO79) dated May 14, 2021, Governor Northam announced a number of major changes to Virginia’s COVID policy, including an elimination of almost all COVID-19 related restrictions, effective at midnight on May 28, 2021.
EO79 (and the 7th amended EO72, which remains in place until May 28) also eliminated Virginia’s previous state-wide mask mandate effective immediately and in favor of following recently issued CDC mask guidance. The new CDC guidance removes mask recommendations for fully vaccinated persons in most situations. EO72 and EO79 now provide that persons “should” wear face coverings in accordance with CDC guidance, which provides that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons should generally continue to wear face coverings.
The complete text of EO79 is located here. Here is a summary:
Facility Operation. As of midnight on May 28, 2021, due to the expiration of EO72,association gyms, club rooms, pools, playgrounds and other facilities may open without any restrictions on occupancy. While not completely clear from the new EO79, it appears that those facilities may resume previous “normal operations” without entrance screening and the other restrictions required under the prior amended EO72. At the time of this posting, it remains unclear whether there will be any sector-specific “Forward Virginia” guidelines that should still be followed. This posting will be updated as information is confirmed.
Even after the various mandates have been lifted, associations remain free to follow applicable CDC guidance. In addition, to the extent that an association wishes to continue certain rules or operational protocols regarding the use of its facilities, it is likely within the authority of the board of directors to do so, if the board adopts them as part of the association’s rules and regulations. Prior to taking steps to eliminate or continue those protocols, we recommend the board of directors consult with the association’s legal counsel.
Masking. The Virginia mask mandate has been eliminated, with new guidance issued consistent with CDC guidance. In short, the state is no longer requiring individuals to wear masks; however, it is recommended (per the guidance) that any person who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated wear a mask.
While Virginia’s legal requirement to wear masks has been rescinded, businesses, government entities and other organizations may impose their own mask mandates. Also, at a minimum, associations may wish to post signage stating that unvaccinated/partially vaccinated persons should wear a mask in accordance with the CDC’s guidance. To the extent that an association wishes to adopt (or keep) rules regarding masking, it may wish to consult with legal counsel.
Please note that while the CDC guidance suggests that unvaccinated individuals should wear masks, we are not suggesting that associations attempt to confirm whether persons have been vaccinated as a means of enforcing rules or determining allowable access to facilities.
Also, per the Governor’s office, it is anticipated that the state of emergency in the Commonwealth will end on June 30th.
Federal, state and local responses to COVID-19 are changing quickly. We encourage associations to monitor relevant government websites and this page for further updates in the proximate future.
Legal Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific facts and circumstances of each case and each association’s governing documents. Also, it is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of all legal considerations, nor should it be used to replace the individualized advice of your legal counsel.