Virginians should wear face masks outside to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.
Northam, speaking at a news conference in Richmond, cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday that said people should wear non-medical, cloth masks.
“If a person is wearing a face covering, it is less likely that droplets from a sneeze or from talking will spread out into the air, and if you’re wearing a face covering, it can offer some level of protection against those droplets,” Northam said. “It also makes you more aware of accidentally touching your face. You don’t need a medical grade mask to do this; in fact, you can make your own.”
Northam showed off his own mask, which he said was made by the Department of Corrections.
The CDC had initially recommended that only those with COVID-19 symptoms wear masks.
"Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said in a statement last week.
Virginia law bars people from concealing their face, a measure passed in the 1950s aimed at unmasking the Ku Klux Klan. The felony carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Northam said the law would not be used to charge people wearing the masks to mitigate COVID-19’s spread.
“If you are wearing this face covering for the purpose of protecting yourself medically, nobody in Virginia will give you any problems; nobody will write any citations,” he said.
Virginia Department of Corrections: 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19
The Virginia Department of Corrections reports that 19 inmates - 18 of them at two facilities for women and one at an outside hospital - and 9 staff have tested positive for the virus less than a week after the first cases were confirmed behind bars.
The department, which manages nearly 30,000 inmates in more then 40 facilities said it has taken measures to help keep COVID-19 out of the prisons and to curb its spreading once inside. Officials said they are following the guidelines of the CDC and Virginia Department of Health.
The number of cases at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, a 500-inmate prison in Goochland, doubled from Sunday to Monday, from 6 to 12, said the department.
Advocates and critics continue pleas to the Northam administration to release more inmates. Parole ended for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995. The administration says there are nearly 2,600 inmates who are eligible for parole or eligible for geriatric release by the parole board.
Virginia hospital dashboard provides current updates on hospital capacity
A new online dashboard run by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association launched Monday says that 1,194 people either confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 are currently hospitalized across Virginia.
This number shows a significant difference in reporting from the Virginia Department of Health, which reported only 497 cumulative hospitalizations Monday morning based on data collected as of 5 p.m. Sunday.
The state has also reported only 2,878 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, about 2.4 times as many hospitalized cases there are.
A lack of testing and a delay in laboratory results has stunted the Virginia Department of Health in its ability to track how widespread COVID-19 is throughout the state.
According to the VHHA dashboard, 538 of those hospitalized have tested positive for COVID-19, 656 of those hospitalized have tests still pending. Of those hospitalized, 387 are in the Intensive Care Unit and 285 are on a ventilator.
Hospitals throughout the state report having 1,900 ventilators that are not currently being used by a patient.
Eleven hospitals have told VHHA that they are having difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment in the next 72 hours.