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Gov. Justice lifts capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and businesses

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 11:13 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Restaurant and bars in West Virginia can now operate at 100% of their seating capacity.

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 the previously increased capacity limit of 75% that was in place for the past two weeks.

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.

The restrictions will be lifted at midnight Friday. Gov. Justice said masks must be worn unless a customer is eating or drinking.

TO READ THE EXECUTIVE ORDER CLICK HERE.

The governor also lifted the capacity limitation on small businesses and retail stores.

Justice said the state is not backing off of the mask mandate at this time. The mandatory face covering requirement is still in effect.

“I’m gonna continue to listen to the medical experts,” Justice said when it comes to keeping the mask mandate. “We absolutely expect you to continue to wear your mask. 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.”

As far as other venues, the capacity limit will be increased for other businesses that still have restrictions like gyms, fitness centers and museums. The governor says they can go to 100% capacity, as well. This is only if social distancing is done properly.

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.

“Maintaining our mask discipline and continuing with mitigation measures, physical distancing and others, is needed for these businesses that are indoor, and as we have done in schools,” West Virginia COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said. “Waiting for weather to get warmer where people can get outdoors, where things are going to definitely going to be even more safe, I think is a very, very responsible way to move forward. The key is, we are constantly monitoring all of these businesses and all of these areas and if we start to see things change, then of course, the Governor will move in the way he has demonstrated, and I think we all have, that we are prioritizing the health, wellbeing and the lives of the people in the state. So I am 100 percent comfortable.”

The governor also announced youth travel sports may take place unless your county is listed as red on the state’s county alert system. High school sports will continue to follow guidelines set by the WVSSAC.

“Absolutely, I am not going to be influenced by people that are out trying to do something as a political move or whatever,” Justice said about other states removing all COVID-19 restrictions in recent days. “I really want us to be back to work, and be back to play, and be back to school. All those different things as much as anybody. But, it is my responsibility to lead us in the right path and be as cautious as I can be while still trying in every way for us to live with this terrible killer and get us back to as much normalcy as we can get to.”

Additionally on 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,” 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 more than $3 million last year to ensure the survival of dozens of fairs and festivals across West Virginia.

Justice also mentioned that Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of when the state of preparedness for COVID-19 was issued.

Friday more pharmacies were added to the federal pharmacy partnership distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The governor says in addition to Walgreens, pharmacies in the Medicine Shop Network of independent pharmacies, such as Fruth Pharmacy will now be included. They will begin next week.

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.

For how to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine online CLICK HERE.

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