State Watch

Virginia, Maryland lift indoor mask mandates following updated CDC guidance

The governors of Virginia and Maryland on Friday joined a slew of other states in lifting indoor mask mandates after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that Americans who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks in most settings. 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced the update in a video message shared by his office, calling the new CDC guidance a "tremendous step forward." 

Northam said in the video that Virginia residents who are fully vaccinated - meaning 14 days have passed since their final dose - no longer have to wear masks "in most situations," but businesses in the state "may still choose to require masks in their establishments and masks will still be required in schools." 

In addition to lifting the universal indoor mask mandate, Northam also announced Friday that the state would be moving to ease all remaining social distancing and capacity restrictions by May 28, two weeks earlier than the initial deadline set in plans his office had announced last week. 

"In these next two weeks, I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get vaccinated if you haven't already," Northam added later on in the video. 

"It's very simple," he continued. "It's either a shot or a mask. It's up to you." 

Northam said in a statement issued by his office Friday that Virginia is "seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts." 

"That's why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia," he added. 

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced at a news conference Friday that the state's mask mandate will officially be lifted on Saturday to move in line with the updated CDC guidance. 

Hogan said, however, that masks will still be required on public transportation, in schools and in health care settings, and private businesses may still require customers to wear masks. 

"Today is the day so many of us have been waiting for and working toward," Hogan said. "We finally do clearly see the light at the end of that tunnel."

"Our long, hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end," he continued. "As we reflect on the hard work and the many sacrifices that it has taken to finally reach this point, we say thank you to the countless Marylanders who helped us get here."

The change in Maryland's mask policy will come the same day all remaining coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, entertainment and sporting venues are scheduled to be lifted. 

Hogan on Wednesday when announcing the plans for removing coronavirus restrictions said he had anticipated lifting the state's indoor mask mandate once at least 70 percent of residents in the state had received at least one dose of the vaccine, which he expected to occur by Memorial Day weekend. 

As of Friday, roughly 53 percent of Maryland residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 41 percent fully vaccinated, according to the CDC's vaccine database

In Virginia, about 51 percent of the population has gotten one shot of one of the three vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S., while 40 percent have been fully vaccinated.