COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice loosens restrictions on businesses, social gatherings, and youth travel sports

3/5/2021

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials today for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

GOV. JUSTICE LOOSENS RESTRICTIONS ON BUSINESSES, SOCIAL GATHERINGS, AND YOUTH TRAVEL SPORTS
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.
VIEW EXECUTIVE ORDER 8-21
VIEW ALL ACTIVE GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS
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.”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTO ALBUM

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. [1] [2] [3]

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION UPDATE
Also today, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that on Wednesday he announced that he has expanded the state’s vaccine prioritization to include all West Virginia residents age 50 and older, all West Virginia education workers from 40 to 50 years old, and all West Virginians age 16 and older with certain pre-existing medical conditions.
All West Virginians need to pre-register at vaccinate.wv.gov or by calling 1-833-734-0965 to receive the vaccine. Individuals with an occupation or pre-existing medical condition that would qualify them for vaccination immediately under the newly expanded allocation protocols should note their occupation or condition upon registration. The Joint Interagency Task Force for Vaccines will coordinate with health systems across the state to reach out to all individuals with qualifying medical conditions to assist them in scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated.

The Governor went on to note that West Virginians who are age 65 and older will continue to be prioritized first until all state residents in this age range who desire the vaccine have been vaccinated. Any West Virginians age 65 and older who are still waiting on an appointment are urged to call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965 to make sure that providers are able to schedule their vaccination. To date, 187,922 West Virginians age 65 and older have chosen to be vaccinated, including 108,941 who are now fully vaccinated.

Free COVID-19 vaccination clinics either have been or will be held in all 55 counties across West Virginia by the end of this week through operation “Save Our Wisdom.”

Each clinic location has its own, unique schedule. Names are being pulled from the West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccine Registration System to fill out appointments after waitlists are exhausted. All clinics require appointments and walk-ins will not be accepted.
West Virginia was the first state in the nation to put a statewide vaccination pre-registration system in place. The new digital tool allows West Virginians to add themselves to a list of people who are interested in being vaccinated, and will notify those who sign up about the availability of vaccine doses to help streamline vaccination efforts.

To date, more than 336,000 West Virginians have signed up to be added to the pre-registration list.

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.
The Governor also reported that West Virginia remains among the national leaders in the rate of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.

As of Friday afternoon, 12.1 percent of West Virginia's entire population has received both doses of the vaccines; a rate so high that, if West Virginia were its own country, it would rank as the 7th-best rate of any nation in the world.

West Virginia has successfully administered 532,805 doses after receiving a total allotment of 583,230 doses from the federal government to date; an overall administration rate of 91.4%.

West Virginia currently boasts a first dose administration rate of 93.2% and a second dose administration rate of 88.6%.
  • First doses: 323,811 administered / 347,475 allotted
  • Second doses: 208,994 administered / 235,755 allotted
West Virginia COVID-19 Dashboard (Click “Vaccine Summary” tab)

COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice reported that the current number of active cases in the state is now 6,144, down from 6,451 as of his previous COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. The number of daily active cases in West Virginia has now decreased for 48 straight days, and 52 of the past 53 days.

The Governor added that West Virginia has experienced an 88% decrease in average daily deaths over the past seven weeks.

The number of active hospitalizations is now 200, up slightly from 197 on Wednesday. Of those currently hospitalized, 55 patients are in the ICU, down from 60 such patients on Wednesday.

The cumulative percent of positive cases has decreased to 5.41%, down from 5.43% on Wednesday.

Click here to view the latest COVID-19 data

FRIDAY MAP UPDATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week County Alert System map update.

The map is updated live on the DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard (Click "County Alert System" tab) throughout the week.

Red counties: 0
Orange counties: 4
Gold counties: 9
Yellow counties: 10
Green counties: 32

OUTBREAK REPORT
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice reported that there is still just one church-related outbreak in West Virginia. The previous church-related outbreak in Webster County is no longer considered active at this time. However, another church-related outbreak has been identified in Nicholas County, and it accounts for a total of four cases.

There are now nine outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, down from 10 such outbreaks as of the Governor’s previous press briefing on Wednesday.

The Governor also reported that there are now 278 inmate cases across the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) system, up from 170 on Wednesday, including 210 inmate cases at Western Regional Jail and 65 inmate cases at Southern Regional Jail. DCR has now completed testing inmates and staff throughout both of these facilities.

Meanwhile, there are now just nine active staff cases across the DCR system, down from 13 on Wednesday. To view the latest DCR case update, click here.

AGGRESSIVE TESTING CONTINUES ACROSS STATE
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided an overview of the 53 counties across the state that have free testing events scheduled through the Governor’s Aggressive Testing initiative.
This testing is available to all residents, including asymptomatic individuals. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

An interactive online map of all free testing locations across West Virginia is available online. Users can filter the map by type of testing site, including daily testing events, recurring testing events, as well as Walgreens and Fruth Pharmacy testing locations. Users can also filter by county. Each location is marked on the map with a pin. After finding a testing location nearby, users are able to click on the pin for more information about that particular testing site, including the specific location and timeframe during which testing will be held.

Click here to view all locations, dates, times, and more details

GOV. JUSTICE HOSTS FOURTH VIRTUAL TOWN HALL ON PLAN TO REPEAL STATE INCOME TAX
Gov. Justice also took time out of his remarks about COVID-19 to announce that, following his briefing Friday, he would be holding his fourth virtual town hall to answer West Virginians’ questions about his Personal Income Tax Repeal Proposal.

Click here to watch Friday’s full town hall
Additional virtual town hall events will be held in the coming weeks to field more questions about Gov. Justice’s Personal Income Tax Repeal Proposal.
SUBMIT A QUESTION FOR A FUTURE EVENT
The Governor also took time to offer a reminder that yesterday he announced that he had officially submitted his bill on his Personal Income Tax Repeal Proposal to the West Virginia Legislature.

The bill is designed to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform West Virginia’s tax structure; raising wages, raising home values, bringing in more businesses, more people, and making life better for all West Virginians.
VIEW BILL ABSTRACT

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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Banner Images Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Commerce

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