Virginia governor expected to sign bill ending school mask mandates

The legislation allows parents to refuse their children to wear a mask at school without having to provide a reason, and would make the Republican governor the latest head of state to lift Covid-19 mitigation measures as the number of cases is decreasing in the United States.

“I am pleased that there is widespread, bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental rollback of mask mandates in schools. Today the General Assembly took an important step for parents and children,” said Youngkin said in a statement Monday.

The House of Delegates sent the bill to the governor’s office on Monday after it passed the house along party lines, with no Democrats in favor of the measure. Three Democrats had joined all Virginia Senate Republicans in approving the legislation last week.

Inaugurated on January 15, Youngkin campaigned intensively on the rights of parents of school children and signed a presidential decree on his first day in office that allowed parents and guardians to “choose that their children should not be subject to any mandate mask in force at the child’s school”. or an educational program. »
That order, however, has faced a wave of legal challenges from Virginia school districts and parents, and a judge had ruled earlier this month that mask mandates in seven Virginia school districts could stand. in place.

While a number of states have moved forward with plans to lift mask mandates in schools, the move flies in the face of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend universal masking in the schools.

The CDC’s general guidance produced a range of responses from states. California, for example, is set to keep its mask mandate in schools even as it lifts it for vaccinated people in indoor public spaces.

Some public health experts, however, have questioned whether it’s time for the CDC to update its school guidelines, especially as the nation ponders what life after the pandemic might look like.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, associate executive dean of Emory University School of Medicine, previously told CNN it’s the right thing to do for school districts in highly vaccinated communities.

“In a highly vaccinated community, while cases are going down right now with Omicron, maybe in a few weeks taking the masks off is actually the right thing to do. It gives us the opportunity to lift one of those restrictions that’s been so controversial,” del Rio told CNN.

He added that there are other mitigation measures that schools can adopt, such as improving air ventilation in classrooms.

That advice has been endorsed by both political parties, with Democratic governors from three East Coast states — Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey — announcing they will lift mask requirements in schools in the coming weeks.

“If hospitalizations are clearly going down and positivity rates are going down in the community, that’s the right thing to do,” del Rio said.

This story was updated with additional information on Monday.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.


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