STATEWIDE — Gov. Glenn Youngkin has added an emergency clause to legislation that would see an end to school mask mandates in Virginia to take effect no later than March 1.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed Senate Bill (SB) 739 Monday, giving parents and students the ability to opt out of mandates imposed by schools.
The legislation as it currently is written would not have taken effect until July 1. However, SB 1303, which mandates universal masking in Virginia’s public schools, is scheduled to expire in August 2022.
However, Gov. Youngkin has added an emergency clause to the legislation that allows for it to take effect immediately.
He also added that each local school division must comply with the provisions no later than March 1.
A staff member from Gov. Youngkin’s office told WYDaily that she believes that the March 1 date is to give schools more time to adjust, if needed.
Lawmakers will vote again on the Governor’s recommendations. If lawmakers approve these provisions, school districts will be required to make masks optional by March 1.
This news comes as vaccine rates for state residents that are of school age trail behind ideal standards for COVID-19 safety. Experts estimate that “herd immunity” would require that 80-90 percent of the population to have some sort of immunity against COVID-19, either through vaccination or prior infection.
“We have not achieved any herd immunity through a natural disease process to most major infectious diseases that affect the population to this scale,” she said. “All of the major infections I know of have required vaccination.” Dr. Christelle Ilboudo, a pediatric infectious disease expert with Michigan University Health.
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Summary Dashboard, as of Feb. 15, 2022 at 2:22 p.m., James City County reports that 28 percent of its 5-11-year-olds and 63.9 percent of its 12-17-year-olds are considered fully vaccinated, City of Williamsburg reports that 20.8 percent of its 5-11-year-olds and 49.9 percent of its 12-17-year-olds are considered fully vaccinated, and York County reports that 27.4 percent of its 5-11-year-olds and 57.3 percent of its 12-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated from COVID-19.
WYDaily is awaiting further comment from Gov. Youngkin’s office.