Effective Jan. 9, masks are required for all individuals entering the Robinson-Merhige Federal Courthouse in Richmond.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia announced the protocol change in a recent press release, which states that all individuals are required to “wear a well-fitting respirator (N-95, KN-95, etc.) or a surgical/procedure mask that covers their nose” in indoor public areas.
People who cannot wear a mask because it is “medically unsafe for them to do so” are exempt from the rule if they obtain permission from either the chief judge or senior active judge.
The mask mandate follows the Eastern District’s “Division-specific” masking policy adopted by the court in July 2022. The policy requires masks in courthouses and court facilities only if the city the courthouse is located in is experiencing “high” community transmission of COVID-19, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Per the court’s policy, decisions about mask mandates are made on a weekly basis, with updated CDC data available on Thursday evenings dictating the policy for the following week.
As of Jan. 10, the court’s three other divisions — located in Alexandria, Newport News and Norfolk — are in “medium” or “low” community transmission categories and remain mask optional. However, the court’s masking policy states individual judges “may still require that masks be worn in their courtrooms and chambers.”