West Virginia’s governor on Friday announced he is allowing bars, restaurants, and small businesses to reopen fully by eliminating capacity restrictions.
Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, signed an order increasing the capacity limit for the stores to 100 percent, up from 75 percent.
The order contains caveats. Restaurants can only fully reopen if social distancing can be maintained between groups that arrive and sit together. Bars can only reopen if they have physical seating for every patron.
“Today we’re going to move our restaurants and our bars to 100 percent of their seating capacity that they can use, provided we maintain social distancing,” Justice told a press conference.
“I encourage everyone, everyone there, to just use good sense, and absolutely try at all times, if you can, to keep your mask on, unless you’re eating or drinking, and keep that social distancing,” he added. “We will have no standing room for people to congregate, like in the bars.”
Small businesses and retail stores are also seeing capacity limitations lifted, but both shoppers and workers are expected to continue wearing masks. Gyms, museums, and fitness centers are, additionally, not going to have limitations going forward, provided they can meet social distancing requirements.
Justice is not withdrawing his mask mandate at this time, even though he said he’s aware that nobody can stand wearing them.
The rule changes come as West Virginia saw an 88 percent decrease in the average daily COVID-19 deaths over the past seven weeks, and active COVID-19 cases decreased for 48 consecutive days. The latest daily case number was 6,144.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Just 200 people are hospitalized with the disease in the state, and just 55 are in intensive care units. Meanwhile, 124,000 West Virginians have recovered from COVID-19.
With one of the most efficient vaccine distribution systems in the country, administering about 9 out of 10 of the doses it’s received, West Virginia has vaccinated 532,805 people against the virus as of the latest update.
“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,” Justice’s office said in a press release.
Still, both Justice and his virus czar, Dr. Clay Marsh, warned against people believing the pandemic is over.
“We still need to be very, very aware that this is not over yet,” Marsh told reporters.
A number of governors this week eased restrictions, including Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. Some rescinded statewide mask orders, while others, like Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, kept them in place for now.