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Virginia Senate approves March 1 mask deadline

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Jahd Khalil
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Radio IQ
A sign on the door of a school in Hopewell notifies students, staff and visitors of the school's mask requirement.

Mask mandates in Virginia schools may be a thing of the past as soon as March First. That would be the result of an amendment from Governor Glenn Youngkin approved by the Senate Tuesday evening. The governor slapped the amendment on an earlier bill speeding up the timeline of when masks will become optional in all public K-12 schools.

Two Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to pass the amendment. Chap Petersen is a Democrat from Fairfax City who worked with the governor on the original bill. "I would like this to take effect yesterday, but that's not going to happen," Petersen said Tuesday night. "And I do believe that we are going to need a transition time for some of our Northern Virginia school districts and probably elsewhere in the state."

Most Democrats voted against that enactment date amendment, although Democrats did vote in favor of a separate amendment that makes sure the governor retains the power to declare a public health state of emergency. Senator Adam Ebbin is a Democrat from Alexandria. "It preserves the governor's authority to react to future public health crises," Ebbin noted.

The governor's amendments also need to be approved by the House of Delegates, although the Republican leadership has already signaled they're eager to end the mask mandates. A vote in that chamber is expected Wednesday. Governor Youngkin's office has already scheduled a signing ceremony for Wednesday afternoon.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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