Thursday, February 29, 2024

House of Delegates Passes Mask Choice in Schools Bill

The Virginia House of Delegates passed SB 739 with a 52-48 vote on Feb. 14, 2022. The legislation now advances to Governor Youngkin’s office. (Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

RICHMOND — Virginia parents may soon have the option to send their kids to school without masks.

After advancing through the State Senate last week with a bipartisan vote of 21-17, today, Senate Bill (SB) 739 successfully passed through the Virginia House of Delegates.

The Virginia House of Delegates voted in favor of SB 739 in a 52-48 vote.

Governor Youngkin tweeted at 2:40 p.m., “I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools. Today, the General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children.”

Youngkin added in another tweet posted online at the same time, “After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child’s health, education, upbringing, and care.”

SB 739 now advances to Governor Youngkin’s office for signing. As it currently stands, the bill won’t go into effect until July 1, 2022. SB 1303, which put the mask mandate in place throughout Virginia’s public schools, is set to expire in August 2022. However, Youngkin has hinted at the idea of adding an emergency clause to SB 739 which would make the new legislation effective before the July 1 date.

Once the bill is signed, the Virginia General Assembly, both the House of Delegates and the State Senate, will consider any recommendations from the Governor’s office later this week.

This news comes as Virginia’s school-aged population is pacing below ideal for vaccination rates. In James City County, only 27.9 percent of 5-11-year-olds and 63.8 percent of 12-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, City of Williamsburg has 20.4 percent of 5-11-year-olds and 49.7 percent of 12-17-year-olds fully vaccinated, and York County reports 27.3 percent of 5-11-year-olds and 57.2 percent of 12-17-year-olds fully vaccinated.*

More information on SB 739 can be found on Virginia’s legislative website.

*Data was collected on Feb. 14, 2022 at 4:36 p.m. from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COVID-19 Vaccine Summary Dashboard.

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