Gov. Jim Justice

Justice loosens restrictions on businesses, social gatherings, and youth travel sports

CHARLESTON — During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, after continued discussions with members of the West Virginia pandemic response leadership team regarding the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases and the increasing number of vaccinated West Virginians, he is lifting capacity restrictions on several types of West Virginia businesses, increasing the social gathering limit, and permitting more youth travel sports to take place.

Restaurants and Bars

On Friday, Gov. Justice signed Executive Order 8-21, which increases the capacity limit for all restaurants and bars to 100% of their seating capacity; up from 75% previously.

This change applies only if social distancing can be maintained between groups that arrive and sit together.

Bars may only increase capacity to the extent that they have physical seating for every patron. No standing room for people to congregate will be allowed.

This change will be effective at midnight tonight.

These businesses must still continue to follow all applicable safety guidelines, including, but not limited to, mandatory face coverings and social distancing.

Small Businesses, Retail Stores, and Grocery Stores

At the direction of Gov. Justice, the DHHR has amended its rules to lift all capacity limitations for small businesses, retail stores, and grocery stores, provided that all such businesses continue to follow all applicable safety guidelines, including, but not limited to, mandatory face coverings and social distancing.

Other Venues

The Governor also announced that he will be increasing the capacity limit for other businesses that still had capacity restrictions, such as gyms, fitness centers, and museums, to 100% of their capacity.

These businesses must also continue to follow all applicable safety guidelines, including, but not limited to, mandatory face coverings and social distancing.

Social Gathering Limit

Executive Order 8-21 also increases the social gathering limit to 100 people; up from 75 previously.

This limitation applies only for any gathering of people for purely social purposes. The limitation does not apply to any activity, business, or entity that has been deemed essential, such as religious services, weddings, group meetings, conferences, or other special events held for essential businesses and operations.

This change will be effective at midnight tonight.

Those partaking in such purely social gatherings must continue to social distance, wear face coverings, and follow all other applicable safety guidelines.

Youth Travel Sports

Executive Order 8-21 also allows all youth travel sports to take place, except for games, practices, or any other types of competition within counties designated as “Red” in the DHHR’s County Alert System map(Click “County Alert System” tab).

This restriction on Red counties does not apply to teams that play in defined, relatively small geographic areas, such as within a single county or a few counties in the state of West Virginia.

This change will be effective at midnight tonight.

Those participating in such youth travel sports must continue to follow all applicable safety guidelines.

FACE COVERING REQUIREMENT TO REMAIN IN EFFECT

Also on Friday, Gov. Justice clarified that it is still mandatory to wear a face covering indoors, in all public buildings, at all times, unless actively eating or drinking.

“We do continue to expect you to wear these masks,” Gov. Justice said. “You know, I’m not a fan of the masks either. But, at the same time, we know they’ve saved a lot of lives, and we know we’re too early in the game to let our guard down.

“Think of it this way, West Virginia,” Gov. Justice continued. “Imagine that you’re walking through the woods, and 15 feet in front of you there’s a rattlesnake all coiled up. If you just jump backward without looking, you might jump on his buddy, because a lot of times rattlesnakes travel in twos. So really and truly, what you want to do if you have really good sense, is to stand still, because you know the rattlesnake 15 feet away can’t hurt you. Then you can take your time, look around, and decide which way is safest to go.

“That’s what we’re doing. We are removing restrictions and we are slowly deciding which way to go.

“Some folks believe that, wearing a mask, they shouldn’t do it from a freedom standpoint. I only ask you to consider how hard the National Guard has worked to get us where we are today. I would ask you; have you not seen how the ICU nurses have gone to work every day and held the hands of 2,318 West Virginians that died and watched them take their last breath? Have you asked these people about freedom?

“I am extremely respectful of all of our freedoms, but this has been one tough go of it,” Gov. Justice added. “As we go forward, we ought to be really considerate of all.

“We’re getting there quickly. Just hang with me, West Virginia.”

GOVERNOR PROVIDES UPDATE ON FAIRS AND FESTIVALS

Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, while no changes have been made yet to the restrictions on fairs, festivals, carnivals, or similar events, with spring now approaching, he has begun to consult with the West Virginia pandemic response leadership team about ways to enable all these events to take place this year, while maintaining safety.

“I know that our fairs and festivals are hurting,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re looking forward to being able to enable these events to take place, I hope you continue to plan for that to become a reality. As we get closer, we will clarify the different guidelines, but I’m very, very hopeful that our fairs and festivals will go on like they have in the past.”

Gov. Justice awarded over $3 million last year to ensure the survival of dozens of fairs and festivals across West Virginia.

All West Virginians over the age of 16 are encouraged to pre-register at vaccinate.wv.gov.

Vaccine supplies are limited, so pre-registration does not mean immediate access to vaccination. Pre-registration offers West Virginians the opportunity to receive real-time updates on vaccine availability and schedule an appointment when available as vaccine supplies allow. The vaccine registration system allows people to select their preferences for communication through text, email, or voicemail over regular phone lines.

West Virginians who need assistance with registration for any reason should call the COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line for help at 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Governor went on to say that increased emphasis on pre-registrations is needed in a handful of counties across the state, including Berkeley, Jackson, Jefferson, Mason, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Morgan, and Wayne counties. The Governor urged West Virginians in these counties with friends and family age 65 and older to help these individuals get pre-registered.

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