RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends leaders in localities with “substantial” to “high” rates of transmission for COVID-19 to encourage citizens to wear masks in public, indoor settings. Several localities match this criterion in the Richmond area.
According to CDC data, Hanover, Louisa, Prince George and Dinwiddie counties all have a “substantial” transmission rate of the virus; Charles City, New Kent, King William, Amelia, Nottoway County have a “high” rate.
Chesterfield County was “substantial” on Tuesday but moved to “moderate” overnight.
A spokesperson for Governor Ralph Northam said Tuesday his office would “thoroughly review” the CDC’s recommendations.
“The Governor has taken a nuanced and data-driven approach throughout this pandemic—which is why Virginia has among the nation’s lowest total COVID-19 cases and death rates,” the spokesperson said. “As he has said repeatedly, the only way to end this pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated. The facts show vaccines are highly effective at protecting Virginians from this serious virus — over 98% of hospitalizations and over 99% of deaths have been among unvaccinated Virginians.”
Joseph Easter, Chair of the Amelia County Board of Visitors, said there are no current plans to “further encourage” mask use but county leaders continue to monitor the situation.
Susan Pollard, a spokesperson with Chesterfield County, did not comment on how officials might respond to the updated guidance, and instead told 8News to contact the Virginia Department of Health.
The CDC also recommends localities implement a universal mask policy for all teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status in K-12 settings.
So far, Richmond, Hopewell and Chesapeake are the only school systems in Central VA to announce they will be requiring all students wear masks in the fall. Henrico County Public Schools officially announced on Tuesday it would not mandate masks.
Richmond is currently categorized as “moderate” for viral transmission. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney continued to encourage people Tuesday to get vaccinated in order to help keep the city moving in the right direction.
“If you want to avoid mask mandates, if you want to avoid further lockdowns and further restrictions, get yourself educated on the value of the vaccine and make the right decision and roll up your sleeve,” Stoney said on Tuesday.
Northam added on Monday that most of the people in the hospital with the virus right now are unvaccinated.
“Let’s look at the statistics on who is ending up in our hospitals in our ICUs and who is unfortunately dying,” the governor said. “97 to 99 percent of these individuals, others who have not been vaccinated.”
However, even getting vaccinated does not completely prevent the spread. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said part of the reason why the mask mandate was revered is because of rare cases of breakthrough infections.
“Now we have new science that has just happened from our outbreak investigations that has demonstrated that the rare people with vaccine breakthroughs can potentially give the disease to someone else,” Walensky said.