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BREAKING: Masks optional in Arlington County facilities starting Thursday

Leaves and a face mask on the ground in Crystal City (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County is making masks optional in county facilities — from community centers to County Board meetings — starting tomorrow (Thursday).

The county made the announcement this afternoon, following the lead of Arlington Public Schools, which made masks optional for students and staff on Tuesday.

“This decision follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Feb. 25, 2022, which updated how it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities,” the county said in a press release. “For the public and most employees, masks will no longer be required inside County facilities, so long as Arlington is in the ‘Low’ level,” as defined by the CDC.

Only about 13 daily cases and 0.3 daily hospitalizations are being reported per 100,000 Arlington residents, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That’s well below the threshold for Covid levels to be considered low by the CDC. All full-time Arlington County government employees, meanwhile, have been vaccinated or obtained valid vaccine exemptions, the county said this week.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 3/2/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Earlier today neighboring Falls Church also announced that masks would be “welcome [but] no longer required in city facilities.” Additionally, the biggest office building in Arlington — the Pentagon — is now a mask-optional zone.

The dropping of mask mandates in Arlington is a dramatic reversal from just over a month ago, when the County Board expressed support for Arlington Public Schools suing the state over Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order to let parents opt kids out of mask wearing at schools.

At the time, in late January, the average rate of new Covid cases in Arlington was roughly ten times the current level.

As of today daily Covid cases in the U.S. have dropped to the lowest level since July 27, 2021, CNN reports.

The full county press release about the masking change is below.

Effective Thursday, March 3, 2022, Arlington County will no longer require masks for the public and most employees while inside County government facilities.

This decision follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Feb. 25, 2022, which updated how it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities.

The CDC’s new tool – COVID-19 Community Levels – looks at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area to determine a level of low, medium, or high.

Currently, Arlington County is “Low,” meaning individuals may choose to wear a mask based on personal preference and level of risk of developing severe illness.

For the public and most employees, masks will no longer be required inside County facilities, so long as Arlington is in the “Low” level.

Masks are still required in some specific locations, such as public transportation and where health or medical services are provided. People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.

People who are at increased risk of severe illness–and family, friends, and coworkers who spend time with them–should consider taking extra precautions even when the COVID-19 Community Level is low.

This change in the County’s mask policy is consistent with the recent guidance issued by CDC and Virginia Department of Health, as well as Arlington Public Schools.

The pandemic is not over, but we are in a new phase. Although COVID-19 continues to circulate, we now have vaccines, tests, and treatments that work, and most Arlingtonians have some immunity from vaccines or past infection.

Vaccination remains the leading public health prevention strategy to protect individuals and communities from COVID-19. The CDC recommends everyone 5 years and older be up to date, meaning a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. To find a vaccine location near you, visit vaccines.gov, walk-in to one of the County’s clinics, or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-400-5368.

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