Starting Friday, everyone in Virginia will be required to wear masks when indoors at a public establishment or on public transportation.

Northern Virginia joins the rest of the state in entering Phase One of re-opening non-essential businesses this Friday. The governor has also issued a statewide mask mandate to go into effect on May 29 as well.

As one of the state's most populous regions prepares to open back up, the main focus is on safety and prevention.

“We are making progress to contain the spread of COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent. Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.” — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam

Phase One means that previously shuttered businesses and houses of worship can open with reduced capacities. Business owners need to maintain proper social distancing requirements for all customers and establish a means for contact tracing in case of future COVID-19 outbreaks.

Any businesses that aren't quite ready to open yet are not required to do so. They are encouraged to open when they feel they can meet the social distancing guideline of keeping customers at least six feet apart.

Highlights of the mask mandate include:

  • A mask may be any sort of face covering, including a commercially-produced mask, a handmade mask, or a scarf, as long as it covers your nose and mouth.
  • Masks must be worn by retail employees and the general public when indoors at a public establishment or on public transportation.
  • Parents are encouraged to have children under the age of 10 wear masks, except for children aged 2 and under.
  • You can remove the mask to eat and drink while indoors at a restaurant.
  • Exceptions to the mask mandate include people who are physically unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition and children aged two and younger.

To protect each other, we all need to wear a face covering in indoor public settings, starting this Friday, May 29.

This includes retail stores, barbershops, restaurants, government buildings, on public transportation, or anywhere where people can congregate in groups indoors.

— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) May 27, 2020

For more information about the mask mandate, check out the governor's full statement here. If you don't have a mask yet, here's a quick tutorial on how to make one out of a simple bandana or fabric.

If you must go out in public for any reason, please wear a face covering. And remember, wearing a cloth face covering should supplement - not replace - social distancing.

Don’t have a face covering? See how to make one below! 👇🏽

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 13, 2020

What do you think about the new statewide mandate and the expansion of Phase One to the rest of Virginia? Do you think we're ready for this next step? Sound off in the comments!