W.Va. Governor Offers Reopening Guidelines For Malls, Bars And Other Businesses
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has announced additional reopening plans, but state public health officials are urging residents to remain cautious of more potential coronavirus outbreaks.
The latest round of reopenings come as the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced Monday that 67 residents have died as a result of COVID-19. To date, the DHHR has reported 1,491 positive cases of the virus that causes the disease.
With large specialty retailers allowed to resume business on Thursday, Justice announced indoor malls will also be allowed to reopen this week.
“From the standpoint of our specialty retail opening back up and our big box stores opening back up, naturally, our malls ought to be open,” Justice said. “And so, from all that, we've asked for additional guidelines and everything. We've got them. We feel very comfortable with them now and everything.”
The governor also said that state parks and cabins will become open to in-state residents on Tuesday, May 26. Additionally, indoor and outdoor bars (operating at half capacity), museums, visitor centers and zoos will be allowed to reopen on that date.
Limited video lottery retailers will be allowed to open back up on Saturday, May 30, as will spas and massage parlors. Justice’s plan also allows casinos to resume operations on Friday, June 5.
Guidance for specific businesses are posted on the governor’s website.
Justice touted numbers released by state health officials including a cumulative positive growth rate under 2 percent. But he did acknowledge that the reopening plan is subject to change, should communities see an uptick in the number of reported cases.
“We're monitoring all the time,” Justice said. And we will probably and very well could have to change — hopefully we won't and everything. The numbers, right now, are continuing to be just fantastic.”
Asked whether the targeted testing of those with symptoms, as well as those in nursing homes, African Americans and other vulnerable populations is affecting a seven-day rolling average, Justice said he believes the cumulative rate is higher than if the general population were to be tested.
“We're testing lots and lots and lots of people, but we're testing people that are feeling bad or have issues or whatever,” Justice said. “Now, the people with problems thus far — on the number of positives versus the number of tests taken — are at 1.96 percent.”
Dr. Clay Marsh, a physician from West Virginia University who is serving as the state’s coronavirus czar, offered cautious optimism Monday as the state moved forward on reopening plans. He said he based that optimism on how residents responded in earlier stages of the pandemic.
“Certainly, we could have many more problems and more deaths if we don't really pay attention to this next step,” Marsh said of planned reopenings. “And, given how well everyone in West Virginia did on the first step, we're confident in the next one.”
Justice again Monday said he hopes West Virginia could attract businesses and boost its population based on the data
“We are the opportunity. We are the diamond in the rough,” Justice said.
However, he did ask residents to remain cautious — even going as far as predicting that reopening would not be without issue.
“We got to really be on our game [and be] really careful,” Justice said. “And our experts are going to lead the way — with myself and all those that are working right right hand in hand — and we're going to stay on top of it and we're going to run to the fire if there's a problem. And trust me, West Virginia, there will be a problem. There's going to be problems. This disease is here. We have got to be careful.”