The day the new governor stepped in, he hit the ground running. With executive orders left and right, and the general assembly starting, change has begun to hit Virginia.
On Jan. 15, Governor Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated into office. He made a promise to Virginians to change things up.
“It’s Day One, and we are going to work just like we promised,” said Youngkin. The day Youngkin took office, he signed nine executive orders and two executive directives at the Virginia state capitol.
The first promise was an executive order making it so parents can make the decision whether their child wears a mask at school. Another executive order revokes the vaccine mandate for all state employees.
The order is called, “Reaffirming the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children.” This order involves the termination of the Order of Public Health Emergency Order Ten (2021), which was when Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency making masks mandatory.
The divisive issue with this order is about the mask mandate in Virginia’s public schools. Many parents believe that it is their right to choose whether or not their children wear a mask in school. Whereas other parents believe it’s the school’s job to protect all students by having everyone wearing a mask.
The order states, “A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, the school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority.”
The governor is unable to single-handedly lift the mask mandate for schools. That’s why he had to go through Congress.
Parents of students with disabilities, weakened immune systems, and other medically complex conditions are in the process of suing Youngkin in federal court as a result of this order.
These parents believe that this order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their children have conditions that make COVID-19 much more dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The parents feel as though their children aren’t being provided equal access to public education.
Masks are now optional in Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico County Public schools.
One Chesterfield parent is keeping her two elementary schoolers home from school until the mandate is reinstated as COVID-19 would be very serious for her fifth-grade son with underlying health conditions.
Henrico County parent Elizabeth Burnett joined the lawsuit for her sixth-grader.
“The community spread of COVID-19 is currently in the high classification as classified by the Virginia department of health. I believe that mask mandates must remain in place until community transmission returns to low. I have three children in Henrico County schools, one of whom is immunocompromised and at greater risk of greater illness should he contract COVID 19,” said Burnett.
On the other end of the spectrum, some Virginia parents believe it’s their right to make the choice for their families whether or not their children wear masks in public schools.
The main arguments against the mandate have to do with the increase in delayed speaking rate amongst children and difficulty breathing through a mask as Youngkin says in the executive order.
The other of Youngkin’s executive directives deal with the Executive branch employees’ vaccination status.
With this directive, employees will not have to be vaccinated or share their vaccination status. However, vaccines and boosters will still be widely available. Although vaccines will not be mandated, employers may instate additional COVID-19 screening protocols.
Youngkin describes his other executive directive as “jumpstarting our economy”. Youngkin plans to do this by getting rid of work inhibiting regulations by 25% not mandated by federal or state law.