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Culpeper judge says Virginia's mask mandate is lawful

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Real estate broker Hannah Tiffany (left) and attorney Steven Price finished the details of a transaction in Warsaw on May 9. Face coverings are required in public buildings or businesses.

A Culpeper County Circuit Court judge has denied a legal challenge to Gov. Ralph Northam’s mask mandate.

Judge Claude Worrell ruled Monday that the governor’s executive order, which stipulates that anyone over the age of 10 wear a face mask while inside a public building or business, is lawful. Northam announced the mandate May 26 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,000 Virginians, according to state data.

“The Court finds the Governor’s Executive Orders are consistent with the Virginia Constitution and the Code of Virginia,” Worrell wrote. “The Orders are not plainly wrong, grossly negligent, executed in bad faith or issued in violation of the United States or Virginia Constitutions, and are consistent with Virginia laws in general.”

Worrell added: “As such, there is no remaining justiciable controversy and even if there was a remaining controversy Plaintiff has not shown a basis to obtain a temporary injunction.”

A judge in the state’s 20th Judicial Circuit ruled last month that the mandate can stand after a challenge from a Fauquier County winery and its owner.

Two Albemarle County men, a radio host and pawn shop owner, filed the most recent challenge, saying Northam’s order conflicted with a Virginia criminal statute that bars people from wearing a mask in the public “with the intent to conceal his identity.” Worrell tossed out the challenge, saying the law “explicitly contemplates the wearing of masks during a public health emergency.”

Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement Tuesday: “As cases continue to rise around the country and even in certain regions of the Commonwealth, we know a sustained commitment to mask wearing, social distancing, and other safety protocols is the best way to reduce transmission and help get us through this health and economic crisis.

“I’m proud we were able to again defend this commonsense measures to help stop COVID, and I’m really proud of the work my team has done to keep Virginians safe during this uncertain time.”

Matthew Hardin, who represents the Albemarle residents, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Twitter: @jmattingly306


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