|RICHMOND(July 21, 2020)—Attorney General Herring has again successfully defended Virginia’s “mask or face covering requirement” against legal challenge, making it at least the 12th decision Attorney General Herring and his team have won in defense of Virginia’s COVID mitigation efforts, and the second win in a case that directly challenged Virginia’s mask requirement.
“The case for mask usage becomes stronger every day. Evidence and scientific consensus continues to build that masks are one of the easiest, most effective ways to control the spread of COVID and to show your fellow Virginians that you care about the health and well-being of your friends, neighbors, and community,” said Attorney General Herring. “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.”
The Plaintiffs in this case, Schilling et al v. Northam, are two Albemarle County men, one of whom owns pawn shops in Albemarle and Charlottesville, who filed suit challenging the ability of the Governor and Virginia Health Commissioner to order the use of face coverings and claiming the order conflicted with the criminal statute barring the wearing of a mask in public “with the intent to conceal his identity.”
Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction allowing them to opt out of the mask law, but Judge Claude Worrell of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit denied the request for a preliminary injunction after finding that mask requirement “was appropriately issued and in general complies” with applicable state statutes, and that Governor Northam’s Executive Orders to control the spread of COVID “are consistent with the Virginia Constitution and the Code of Virginia,” as well as the Virginia statute establishing the Governor’s emergency powers.
Judge Worrell also found that the plaintiffs were “in error” in claiming that Virginia’s law barring the wearing of masks “with the intent to conceal [one’s] identity” made the Governor’s order illegal, writing that the law “explicitly contemplates the wearing of masks during a public health emergency.”
This is the twelfth decision Attorney General Herring and his team has won in defense of Virginia’s COVID mitigation measures, and the second that explicitly challenged Virginia’s mask requirement, in addition to winning court cases to protect the vote during the COVID pandemic.