Virginia eases mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, moves up timeline to lift capacity limits

(Updated at 1:00 p.m.) Masks are coming off in Virginia, as COVID-19 case levels continue to fall and vaccinations become more widespread.

As of midnight on Saturday (May 15), people who have been fully vaccinated — meaning that at least two weeks have passed since they got all necessary vaccine doses — are no longer required to wear face masks indoors, except inside health care facilities, on public transit, or in congregate settings such as homeless shelters.

“This has been a long road, our community has worked hard to slow the spread of COVID-19 and it has paid off,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Our case numbers have been steadily dropping while our vaccination rates continue to increase.”

Gov. Ralph Northam updated the Commonwealth’s mask mandate on Friday (May 14) to align with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cited the vaccines’ proven effectiveness at protecting people from COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill if they do get infected by the novel coronavirus.

Northam also announced last week that Virginia will lift all remaining capacity and distancing rules on May 28, rather than June 15 as previously planned.

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so — the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19.”

COVID-19 cases have continued to decline in Fairfax County since the county was averaging 194.4 new cases over the past seven days on April 13.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported just 16 new cases today, bringing its total for the pandemic to 77,666 cases. 4,091 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 1,108 people have died from the disease.

Fairfax County is now averaging 34.3 new cases per day for the past week — the lowest seven-day average since it was at 30.3 cases on April 1, 2020, when cases just started coming in. The district’s current seven-day testing positivity rate of 2% is the lowest that it has ever been.

The promising downward trends in COVID-19 cases and testing have been complemented by an ongoing vaccination campaign that opened up to 12 to 15-year-old adolescents last Thursday (May 13).

With no vaccine approved yet for younger children and most older students still not vaccinated, Virginia is still requiring masks to be worn in schools in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Tysons Reporter on Saturday that the school system will communicate information to families, staff, and the rest of the community this week.

McKay says Fairfax County anticipates that children as young as 2 will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine later this year.

“Our goal is to reach at least 70% vaccination rates for all adults residing in Fairfax and we are making great progress in reaching that goal,” McKay said. “While there will still be challenges ahead and while we still have work to do to get people vaccinated, we feel good about the data.”

Northam stated on Friday that over 63% of Virginia’s adult population has now received at least one dose of vaccine, and he remains confident that that number will reach 70% by July 4, the target set by President Joe Biden.

McKay’s office says Fairfax County is also “committed” to reaching the 70% goal by July 4, stating that opportunities for people to get vaccinated are now “widely available throughout our community” and that supplies are at levels to meet demand.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, Fairfax County has administered more than 1 million doses so far. 602,926 residents — 52.5% of the population — have gotten at least one dose, and 454,263 residents — 39.6% of the population — have been fully vaccinated.

The Fairfax County Health Department received 58,500 doses from the state during the week of May 10-16.

Photo courtesy Peggy James, graph via Virginia Department of Health

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