After weeks of back and forth, Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, a Republican, signed into law Wednesday a. bill that would effectively prevent mask regulations in schools, by giving parents the right to exempt their children from wearing masks without giving a reason.
“Today, we are re-establishing and restoring our power back to the parents,” Mr. Youngkin said as he signed the bill into law. “We are also resetting expectations that we will return to normal and this is the way.”
The measure would also strip school districts of their freedom to close schools and switch to distance learning, except under limited circumstances. It requires each school district to provide direct instruction for the “minimum required annual instructional hours” in a standard school year, or face financial penalties.
The state legislature approved the amendments added by Youngkin to take effect March 1, giving school districts that have been trying to maintain mask regulations some time to regulate correction. They also give the governor the power to waive the provisions of the bill in case of emergency.
Virginia joins other states that have recently relaxed mask regulations for schools or businesses, as daily reports about the new coronavirus cases significantly slow after increasing Omicron. Some, like Nevadadropped statewide mandates while still allowing local school districts to carry out their own duties, but the Virginia bill prohibits local school officials from doing so.
The bill stipulates in law a step that Mr. Youngkin took with an executive order on his first day in office in January, making mask-wearing optional in schools. Several school districts have fought his order in court, arguing that it is beyond his jurisdiction.
The Virginia Educators Association, which represents more than 40,000 teachers and other school staff, criticize the billsaid it “would remove local decision-making power from local school divisions and place it in the hands of the state.”
President Biden said last weekend that while he understood Public frustration with pandemic restrictions, including school mask regulations, relaxing them now is “probably too soon”, though it is still a “call to action” difficult.”
“With each passing day, children are getting more protected,” Biden said, later adding that “the more protected they are, you’re probably going to see fewer and fewer requirements to wear masks.”
Republican lawmakers in Virginia introduced mask regulations ending the bill in late January, and passed it following candid partisan votes in both houses of the legislature.
The average daily number of new coronavirus infections in Virginia is down more than 80% from the peak of the Omicron surge in mid-January, although it is still higher than at nearly any point earlier in the pandemic. different from the increase one year ago. , According to the New York Times database. The number of hospital admissions, even in the intensive care units, also decreased but remained high, averaging nearly 2,000 patients.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/us/virginia-school-mask-mandates.html Virginia enacted a law banning schools from wearing masks