Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that about 122,000 state employees will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly negative test results, starting next month.
Executive Directive 18 will affect all employees on the commonwealth's executive branch payroll who enter their respective workplaces or who have public-facing duties. This includes employees of the DMV, state police, VDOT, mental health institutions, VEC, the majority of staff and faculty at public colleges and universities, and contractors paid through the executive branch.
"Speaking as the head of that workforce, I want everyone to be as safe and protected as possible," Northam said Thursday.
The regulation will take effect Sept. 1. Employees must provide their proof of vaccination by that date or begin undergoing weekly COVID-19 tests.
The rule does not cover K-12 teachers and staff who are paid locally, nor employees in the legislative branch or judicial positions.
Northam said he was also calling on local governments and private business to follow suit.
"There is no reason why we need to see more suffering and sickness, not when safe, effective, free vaccines are readily available at your local pharmacy, at the grocery store, at your doctor's office, at the health department, at lots of places in every community," Northam said.
Northam said those looking to be vaccinated may visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682). Everyone age 12 and older is eligible to be vaccinated in the commonwealth.
For those hesitant about being vaccinated, Northam said he hopes they listen to him that "the time for waiting is over."
Northam reiterated that all schools are expected to implement universal masking and pointed to Senate Bill 1303, which requires all schools to return to in-person instruction this fall. But the bill has a provision that schools must follow current CDC guidance.
This will put pressure on Spotsylvania and Fauquier counties to change their masking plans.
"The CDC guidance is that people in schools need to be wearing masks," he said.
School districts that choose not to follow that guidance should have "a frank discussion" with their legal counsel," Northam said.