Gov. Jim Justice at a virtual press briefing (file photo)
Gov. Jim Justice at a virtual press briefing (file photo)

Governor: Wear a mask or face criminal penalties

“Call the police, that’s all there is to it, call the police.”

Those were the words of Governor Jim Justice as he announced criminal penalties for both individuals and businesses who refuse to follow a beefed-up mandatory mask order he unveiled during a press conference Friday.

He also announced schools will be closed statewide for at least one week after Thanksgiving and that all winter sports are postponed until 2021.

Justice said the new mask order makes it mandatory to wear a face covering indoors in all public buildings at all times. Children under 9 and people with certain health conditions are the only exceptions.

“We’re making this as an ultra-mandatory requirement, especially for all of our businesses,” Justice said.

If you see someone who is not wearing a mask, Justice had a simple instruction: Call the police.

“They are obstructing justice,” he said. “They will suffer the consequences.”

The same goes for business owners who do not follow the mandate.

“If you, as a business, decide, ‘I’m just not going to do that,’ then you’re in the same situation as far as obstruction,” Justice said. “To our business owners, I am just telling you straight up. The next thing that follows this is the shutting down of businesses… We’re going to end up, as sure as I know my name, taking further steps to slow this thing down.”

Justice said police will first inform business owners or individuals about the mask mandate. If they refused to comply, they will then be charged criminally.

“If a police officer tells them that we are under a state mandatory executive order from the governor and you have got to wear your mask in the building, and they refuse to do so, I have been advised by my council that they can be charged with obstruction of justice,” he said.

The governor noted the record number of active cases and the surge in hospitalizations in announcing the new executive orders.

“We’ve been pleading with people,” Justice said after reading a list of the most recent deaths. “We’ve got to do something.”

As for school, Justice said the entire state will shut down following Thanksgiving to give health officials time to analyze the spread of the virus.

“We all know that families are going to come together over Thanksgiving,” Justice said. “More of a spread is right at our fingertips again.”

Schools statewide will be closed from Nov. 26 through at least Dec. 3, Justice said.

He also announced changes to the winter sports schedule.

“Winter sports will all be postponed until Jan. 11,” Justice said. That includes youth and school sports.

In addition, all concert band festivals are canceled for the rest of the year, and the Regional Band Festivals (Ratings Assessment) this spring will also be canceled.

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