At its regular meeting on Sept. 12, the Alexandria City Council voted 5 to 2 to adopt an ordinance requiring masks in indoor and outdoor public places. The ordinance, which takes effect Oct. 1, expands on a state executive order that has required masks in most indoor public settings since May 29.
“Local, state and national public health experts agree that wearing a mask is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “The more everyone covers their faces and keeps distance from each other, the sooner life can return to normal.”
Like the existing state executive order, the Alexandria ordinance requires face coverings to be worn over the nose and mouth in retail stores, food establishments, theaters, personal care and personal grooming services, and common areas of condominium or apartment buildings.
The ordinance also requires masks in transportation other than personal vehicles; public parks; sidewalks and trails; and any other public outdoor locations where physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained between persons not living in the same household.
Limited exceptions to the mask requirement include when a person is age 10 or younger; when wearing a mask would be harmful to the wearer’s health or is precluded by a workplace safety regulation, religious ritual, medical condition or disability; when a person is actively eating or drinking; or when removal of the mask is necessary to receive government or medical services. Masks are not required while swimming, biking, jogging or engaging in other physical activity for which wearing a mask has been determined to pose a health risk, but participants who do not live together should still maintain at least 10 feet of distance from each other.
Public health experts believe that COVID-19 spreads from person to person primarily through viral respiratory droplets, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, or engages in physical activity. Other people can inhale the infected droplets, especially in confined spaces. Maintaining physical distance between people and wearing masks to block droplets are among the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
People who do not live together should stay at least 6 feet apart at all times. The minimum safe distance is 10 feet during physical activity or singing. Virginia’s Phase Three Guidelines specify the minimum safe distances for different sectors and activities.
The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department continue to remind the public that everyone is safest at home. Older adults and persons with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for severe disease and are advised to minimize potential exposures as much as possible. Everyone should follow the Six Steps to Stop the Spread, which include staying home when possible; washing hands often; maintaining physical distance; covering coughs and sneezes; disinfecting commonly touched surfaces regularly; and covering the nose and mouth with a mask when around other people. Use the Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDWISE app to be quickly and anonymously notified of likely exposure to the virus.
Visit https://www.alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus for detailed information about COVID-19 safety and response.