On Monday, April 27, 2020, Gov. Jim Justice unveiled his comprehensive plan to reopen various aspects of the state and its economy, putting West Virginia on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan is called “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” and allows businesses in certain sectors to reopen in phases over the course of six weeks if the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in the state remains low.
The Governor’s reopening plan is underway.
To begin the process of reopening, West Virginia needed to record consecutive days of statewide cumulative positive test result rates under 3 percent – which was successfully achieved from April 27-April 29, 2020.
View the latest COVID-19 data at coronavirus.wv.gov.
Reopening is a Choice, Not a Requirement
Businesses included in each phase of this reopening plan are not required to resume operations on any specific date. This plan provides the option for reopening, not a requirement.
In the Week 1 phase of reopenings, outpatient health care operations were allowed to resume for facilities regulated by Licensing Boards contained in WV Code Chapter 30, including:
• Acupuncture Professionals
• Hearing-Aid Dealers and Fitters
• Licensed Practical Nurses
• Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Professionals
• Doctors of Medicine and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine
• Occupational Therapists
• Physical Therapists
• Registered Professional Nurses
• Respiratory Professionals
• Social Workers
• Speech-Language Pathologists
Also in Week 1, daycare services across the state were able to resume operations, provided that enhanced testing procedures are put in place at each of these facilities.
These reopenings were in addition to the resumption of elective medical procedures at hospitals across West Virginia, as ordered by Gov. Justice. Hospitals seeking to resume elective procedures must apply with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Health Facility Licensure & Certification and must have adequate inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a plan to respond if there is a surge of COVID-19 patients in the future to receive approval. Each hospital has the discretion to determine the best time to apply to restart elective medical procedures at their facility.
In the Week 2 phase of reopenings, any small business with 10 or fewer employees were able to resume operations, provided that they follow additional safety guidelines.
Also in Week 2, restaurants were able to resume outdoor dining operations under strict physical distancing restrictions. Takeaway service is also permitted. These restaurants are required to follow all additional safety guidelines.
All businesses providing professional services, such as hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and pet grooming were permitted to reopen in Week 2, provided that customers are required to make appointments and wait in their vehicles rather than inside the business. These businesses must also follow additional safety guidelines provided by the West Virginia State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists.
Although churches and funeral homes were deemed essential, many chose to stop in-person services. During Week 2, those that wish to resume in-person services are encouraged to follow additional guidelines such as limiting seating to every other pew, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing face covering restrictions.
In the Week 3 phase of reopenings, wellness facilities like gyms and fitness centers that are supervised by licensed professionals were permitted to resume operations, provided that they follow all additional safety guidelines.
Also in Week 3, drive-in movie theaters were allowed to reopen, provided that they follow all additional safety guidelines.
Outdoor guided fishing was permitted to resume this Friday, May 15, 2020, under strict limitations, including that the maximum capacity for any boat be no more than two anglers and one guide. Rock climbing services was also permitted to resume on May 15, with limitations in place.
In the Week 4 phase of reopenings, fitness centers, gymnasiums, and recreation centers were allowed to reopen, with limitations, on Monday, May 18. Sports training facilities for activities like gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, and similar functions were also permitted to resume on Monday, May 18.
All remaining Week 4 reopenings are currently scheduled to commence on Thursday, May 21.
The following entities are permitted to reopen on Thursday, May 21, with limitations:
Indoor dining at restaurants at 50% capacity
Large/specialty retail stores
State park campgrounds for in-state residents only
Outdoor recreation rentals (kayaks, bicycles, boats, rafts, canoes, ATVs and similar equipment)
Outdoor motorsport and powersport racing with no spectators
Hatfield McCoy Trail System
Indoor malls and similar facilities
The executive order requiring out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine is also currently scheduled to be lifted during Week 4. In accordance with this scheduled change, new guidance documents are available for hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, and cabins.
In addition to the reopening of campgrounds at West Virginia state parks to in-state residents, some public restrooms will also be reopened with proper sanitization protocols in place.
Several additional types of businesses and entities will be permitted to reopen in the weeks ahead. The opening schedule will be based upon the recommendations of state medical experts and upon testing data available at that time.
The Governor’s Office will announce when additional entities will be able to reopen and will provide the associated guidance documents as soon as possible.
Conditions for Reopening to Slow, Stop, or Reverse
Case numbers will continue to be monitored throughout the entire reopening process. In the event that West Virginia’s rate of positive COVID-19 cases surges, the schedule of reopenings may be slowed, stopped, or reversed.
Additionally, any unexpected increase in COVID-19 positive hospitalizations or any significant outbreaks of community-based transmission (not including clusters or outbreaks in nursing homes or other vulnerable communities) may slow, stop, or reverse the reopening process as deemed necessary by Gov. Justice and state health experts.
Businesses With No Timeline for Reopening Right Now
Due to safety concerns, at this time, there is still no timetable to reopen visitation at nursing homes. Additionally, entertainment venues such as movie theaters, sporting events, and concerts will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
West Virginians Should Continue to:
• Practice good social distancing, maintaining at least six feet of separation between each other.
• Wear face coverings in public where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
• Follow the Governor’s “Safer At Home” order – encouraging all West Virginians to remain home whenever possible.
• Follow all county health department regulations.
• Allow employees to telework if possible.