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Virginia mandates coronavirus face masks as state sees biggest daily spike in new cases

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Virginians will soon be required to wear face masks in public to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Tuesday, the same day the state saw its biggest daily spike in new virus cases.

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The executive order, which takes effect on Friday, mandates that all residents wear a facial covering while in “public indoor settings,” according to a news release from the governor’s office. 

“We are making progress to contain the spread of COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” Gov. Northam said in a statement. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

Face masks – which “‘do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly,” as per government officials – will not be required while eating or drinking, during exercise, for children under 2 years of age, those who are hearing-impaired, or “anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering.”

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The news comes after the state on Tuesday reported its biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases – 1,615 – a jump from the 1,483 new cases reported on Monday, according to local news station WAVY. Increased testing was reportedly behind the spike.

Virginia, which began its first phase of reopening earlier this month, also saw 28 new virus-related deaths on Tuesday.

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