CHARLESTON – Hair salons, nail salons and barbershops likely will be permitted to open Monday, May 4, under a statewide reopening plan Governor Jim Justice unveiled Monday morning.
Justice laid out what he called “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback,” which he dubbed a “road map” to reopening the Mountain State.
Under the plan, professional services like barbershops and hair and nail salons, outdoor dining, churches, funerals and small businesses with less than 10 employees can reopen Monday, May 4, Justice said. Larger businesses, parks and dine-in eating will open over the next three to six weeks.
However, larger gatherings will continue to be prohibited. There is no timeline for reopening movie theaters, sporting events, concerts and gatherings of more than 25 people.
Justice said the metric he and state health experts would be watching is the cumulative percentage of COVID-19 positive tests out of total tests administered.
“Let’s just watch that one metric – the percentage of the number of tests taken to positive results, and that metric has dropped from 4.2 percent to 3.75 percent, to 3.42 percent to 3.06 percent, and today right now, for the first time, we have dropped to a level below 3 percent,” Justice said.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, the cumulative percentage was 2.47, according to the W.Va. DHHR’s COVID-19 headquarters.
Justice said the plans to reopen depend on whether the cumulative percentage of positive tests out of total tests remains below 3 percent for three consecutive days. If it surges, the state will re-evaluate and “slow down, stop or back up.”
Currently, the state would need more than 200 new positives to go above the three percent mark.
For professional services at which it’s impossible to maintain a six-foot social distancing buffer – such as hair and nail salons – the state will mandate both employees and clients to wear masks.
“To be perfectly honest, a lot of people probably want to get their hair cut,” Justice said. “If we have proper PPE that we can supply to our salons, we want you to be able to call and make an appointment, stay in your car until your are called in, have your temperature taken, wear a mask and the people working there will be wearing a mask and gloves.”
Outdoor dining at restaurants could also resume next week, and so could church and funeral services with limited gathering sizes and people seated every other pew, Justice said.
“Something where we can be exposed more than ever is singing in church and giving praise,” Justice said, “so please wear a mask to church.”
During weeks three through six of the recovery plan, the following entities may begin to reopen: office and governmental buildings, specialty retail stores, parks, park restrooms, gymnasiums and fitness centers, hotels, casinos, spas, massage parlors and drive-in restaurants.
Public health guidelines for those businesses will be released a week in advance.
The governor said reopenings were contingent on the state maintaining a cumulative COVID-19 percentage of positive tests below 3 percent.
“If we drop below 3 percent and stay below 3 percent, we’re going to begin our comeback,” he said. “I’m calling this West Virginia Strong, because that’s exactly what you are.”
Hospitals and offices performing elective medical/surgical procedures, outpatient health care offices including primary care, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychological/mental health care services can open this week. Childcare centers may also open their doors, provided they can test their employees for COVID-19.
However, the governor noted businesses are not being required to reopen.
“We are allowing, not requiring, you to open,” Justice said. “We’re not mandating you to go back to work at all.”
West Virginians should continue to practice social/physical distancing, wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain a six-foot buffer, follow the stay-at-home order, follow county health department regulations and work from home as much as possible.
The state will slow, stop or reverse course if there’s an increase in COVID-19 positive hospitalizations or a significant outbreak of COVID-19 related to community-based transmission, the governor said.
“Our experts and all the numbers people are going to be watching all across West Virginia in every way,” Justice said.