Governor announces more reopenings


By John Raby - Associated Press



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — In anticipation of the busy Memorial Day weekend in two weeks, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that more businesses will be reopening, including restaurants with indoor seating on Thursday, May 21.

The Republican governor also said large specialty retail stores can open back up on that date as he tries to get the state’s economy moving again in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That doesn’t include indoor malls, but he said mall anchor stores with exterior entrances can resume operations.

Bar areas at restaurants must remain closed and those businesses are limited to 50% seating capacity. Patrons will not be allowed to congregate in waiting areas and there will be no buffet-style service or self-serve salad bars. Drinks are recommended to be served in cans or bottles, according to the guidelines.

Restaurant staff will be encouraged to wear masks that should be cleaned or replaced daily, and staff should limit the number of visits to each table.

Justice said he participated in a conference call Monday with Vice President Mike Pence and that there is a “real movement to encourage — I’m not going to say push — but encourage more and more and more reopening.

“There is no choice in the matter but to try to get back to work. That’s what the president and the vice president are trying to do. They’re trying to nudge us to get back to work. We’re going to try to do the baby steps rather than jump way ahead,” the governor said.

Justice said the state will monitor any possible spikes in virus case if those occur.

“The numbers all tell us that we can do this,” he said. “If we get spikes, we’ll react to them.”

Outdoor recreation outfitters working with ATVs, bicycles, kayaks, boats and canoes also can resume May 21. The governor previously announced the Hatfield-McCoy trail system for ATVs can reopen on that date.

But Justice said no timetable has been set for the resumption of the state’s whitewater rafting industry. He said health experts are concerned about putting a few dozen people on a bus at one time to transport them to and from a river.

“As soon as we can get some guidelines that everyone can live with … we’ll move forward as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.

Justice also will lift the 14-day self-quarantines for out-of-state travelers on May 21. He also gave the go-ahead for campgrounds to reopen May 21 and state park cabins and lodges on May 26, both to in-state residents only. Campground playgrounds and picnic areas must remain closed.

He also said guided fishing trips will be allowed starting this Friday. The trips are limited to two customers and one guide on each boat.

The third week of Justice’s reopening strategy began Monday with drive-in movie theaters and physical therapy centers allowed to reopen. He has already let hospitals resume elective procedures and allowed the reopening of small businesses, outdoor dining restaurants and barber shops.

At least 57 people in the state have died from the virus and about 1,370 have tested positive, according to health data. Three more deaths were announced Monday, a 70-year-old woman from Jackson County, an 89-year-old man from Kanawha County and a 56-year-old woman from Nicholas County.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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By John Raby

Associated Press