Annemarie Stewart,L, and her husband Steve Dakes donned masks for their Saturday morning walk in downtown Richmond. Health officials are urging the use of masks by all people in the current Covid19 environment.

Virginians should wear face masks outside to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.

Northam, speaking at a news conference in Richmond, cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday that said people should wear non-medical, cloth masks.

“If a person is wearing a face covering, it is less likely that droplets from a sneeze or from talking will spread out into the air, and if you’re wearing a face covering, it can offer some level of protection against those droplets,” Northam said. “It also makes you more aware of accidentally touching your face. You don’t need a medical grade mask to do this; in fact, you can make your own.”

Northam showed off his own mask, which he said was made by the Department of Corrections.

The CDC had initially recommended that only those with COVID-19 symptoms wear masks.

"Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said in a statement last week.

Virginia law bars people from concealing their face, a measure passed in the 1950s aimed at unmasking the Ku Klux Klan. The felony carries a maximum of five years in prison.

Northam said the law would not be used to charge people wearing the masks to mitigate COVID-19’s spread.

“If you are wearing this face covering for the purpose of protecting yourself medically, nobody in Virginia will give you any problems; nobody will write any citations,” he said.

- Justin Mattingly

Anonymous donor gives $1M to VCU for coronavirus response fund

An anonymous donor has given $1 million to Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System to create a coronavirus response fund.

The gift, announced Monday by the university, comes with a challenge from the unnamed donor to have other members of the community make $1 million in additional donations for the “VCU COVID-19 Response Fund.”

“This extraordinary generosity provides critical funding to assist our academic health system in meeting the needs of our community,” said Peter Buckley, the interim CEO of VCU Health System, in a statement. “But just as importantly, this donor has come alongside our health care providers as partners in an unprecedented situation.”

The money, according to a VCU news release, will help pay for treating patients, research and supporting medical staff. Specifically, it will fund, among other things, rooms for hospital staff dealing with the pandemic’s impact that can’t go home without putting their families at risk, child care for staff and clinical trials as university researchers work on a potential treatment for the virus.

“The VCU Health System is on the front lines of this historic and unprecedented fight, and I am grateful for this generous support of our courageous and committed care providers,” said VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao in a statement. “This will enable and empower us to find solutions to one of humanity’s most pressing problems and allow those we serve to know they are in the very best hands.”

- Justin Mattingly


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