Mask mandates fuel more debate in Richmond

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 7:10 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The divide over mask mandates in Virginia grew wider this week, following Governor Youngkin’s executive order allowing parents to opt out of mask requirements in schools.

Some school systems have kept mask mandates in place. Parents in Chesapeake have filed a lawsuit challenging the Governor’s order. And the issue has become a major storyline in the General Assembly.

In Gov. Youngkin’s address to the joint assembly Monday, he said parents should decide the health measures taken to protect their children from COVID.

“That’s why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt out of mask mandates in schools,” Youngkin said Monday. “This is a matter of individual liberty.”

But in school board meetings across the state, the issue continues to divide parents, as well as public boards that must implement mask policies.

Democratic lawmakers have questioned the legality of the Governor’s executive order and have promised to fight any effort to withhold funding from schools that keep mask mandates in place.

Wednesday afternoon, Chesterfield Sen. Amanda Chase presented a bill that would prevent schools, and businesses, from enforcing mask mandates.

“A freedom of choice bill and a freedom to breathe bill,” she told fellow lawmakers. It was tabled for the General Assembly session.

WDBJ7 Political Analyst Bob Denton said the renewed debate involving masks is overshadowing the rest of the Governor’s agenda.

“There’s no question, this whole issue about masks has become really the first major challenge of the Youngkin administration,” Denton said, “and clearly a distraction at the beginning of the session in terms of his legislative agenda going forward.”

And with the new lawsuit challenging the Governor’s order, it appears the courts will have the final say on whether or not mask mandates remain in place.

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