West Virginia continues to reopen sectors of its economy shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. At a virtual media briefing Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice announced fairs and festivals would resume on July 1, ahead of the July Fourth holiday weekend.
“There will be very strict guidelines that they must follow,” he said. “The local officials and organizers must make sure we hold these events as safely as we possibly, possibly can.”
Additional guidelines will be released tomorrow on the governor’s website, Justice said.
The governor also announced he was loosening the 25-person limit on public gatherings to 100 people effective at midnight on Thursday.
“Our medical experts have advised me that this is a safe decision and we can go forward with this,” he said. “And we will continue to watch our numbers just like we do every day to make sure that we keep you as safe as we possibly can, while enabling you to try to go on about your life in as close to a normal way as we can.”
That comes ahead of a Black Lives Matter protest planned Saturday at the Capitol. More than 3,000 people have expressed interest in attending according to a Facebook event created for the gathering. Justice urged protestors to peacefully express themselves, but socially distance and wear masks.
During the press briefing, the governor also provided an update on the status of minor league baseball in West Virginia.
Earlier this year, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball proposed reducing by a quarter the number of minor league teams with MLB affiliation, a decision that would affect three West Virginia teams: the Charleston-based West Virginia Power, the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays.
The proposal, which would go into effect after the 2020 season, prompted the West Virginia House of Delegates to unanimously pass a resolution in support of the state’s minor league teams.
In a April 26 press release the West Virginia Power noted no decision had been made and said negotiations were ongoing.
Justice said Thursday that he had been in contact with the MLB and he was “very confident” West Virginia’s imperiled teams would be playing next season.
“The long and short of it is, they've assured us that it surely looks like minor league baseball will continue to happen in West Virginia,” he said.
In an email, Jeff Lantz, a spokesperson for Minor League Baseball, said they could not confirm Justice’s comments, “as Major League Baseball has not shared a new list of teams that are proposed for contraction.”
A request for comment from Major League Baseball was not immediately returned.
A spokesperson for the West Virginia Power declined to comment.
Summer Feeding Program
State officials also unveiled an interactive map to help students and seniors locate food banks and other facilities providing food assistance this summer.
More than 600 sites in all 55 counties will provide food to those in need. Those unable to access the website can call 211 and speak with someone from the United Way.
According to Clayton Burch, state superintendent of schools, local school districts across the state have provided 1.4 million meals a week during the pandemic. This summer, he said the Department of Education will operate over 300 sites across the state that will participate in the summer feeding program. Sites will be located in all of the state’s counties.