Virginia businesses given OK to tell customers ‘put on a mask or leave the store’

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Businesses in Virginia are permitted to ask customers to leave their establishment if they don’t follow Gov. Ralph Northam’s order mandating protective masks or face coverings in public spaces, which went into effect across the state on Friday.

The order applies to anyone age 10 or older using public transportation, accessing government services or entering a business where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed. There are a few exceptions to Northam’s order, including while eating, drinking, exercising. Those with health conditions that make it harder to wear masks will also be exempt.

Rita Davis, who serves as council to the governor, addressed the options for businesses during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing.

“Business owners have the opportunity to have a discussion with someone who is not compliant about the importance of having a mask and wearing that mask,” Davis explained. “If that patron still refuses to be persuaded by the business owner, certainly the business owner can ask that patron to maybe return at a different time when they are more convinced they should be wearing a mask.”

While the Virginia Department of Health has been put in charge of enforcing the mandate, not law enforcement, people who violate Northam’s order could face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, which comes with possible jail time and fines.

A spokeswoman for the state’s health department, Maria Reppas, told 8News that the VDH is responsible for enforcing the order but will not have proactive inspections or monitoring for violations, rather expecting “the public to voluntarily comply with provisions of the order.”

“If we receive information about an individual or individuals being non-compliant, we are going to encourage callers to ask to bring the issue to the business owner immediately while the violation is occurring,” Reppas wrote in an email to 8News. “Business owners should tell non-compliant individuals to either put on a mask or leave the store.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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