CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday encouraged people to go to the state fair as he warned that coronavirus cases are rising in states that have eased restrictions.
The conflicting messages came minutes apart during a news conference in which the Republican governor urged people to follow safety guidelines as restrictions are lifted in the state.
“Because our numbers are phenomenal doesn’t mean that there can’t be issues tomorrow in West Virginia,” he said. “It’s all up to you.”
Justice promoted the State Fair Of West Virginia at length, congratulating its organizers for deciding to move forward with the annual event this summer. When asked if he thought holding the fair could result in an increase in cases, Justice said people must socially distance.
“Just look out after yourself as best you can. Abide by the guidelines and social distance, and everything, and I’m sure the guidelines we’re giving and that the state fair’s giving are going to be the very best that we can possibly do,” he said.
An Associated Press analysis found that coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half of U.S. states, with experts saying at least some increases are due to lifting restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus’s spread. Justice singled out Texas, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina as places that are seeing upticks.
New cases in West Virginia have trended downward over the last two weeks, according to the AP analysis. The number of total cases and deaths also remain low in West Virginia when compared to other states. At least 86 people in West Virginia have died and around 2,200 have tested positive, state health data show.
Justice has already allowed most businesses in the state to reopen. Low-contact youth sports teams as well as middle and high school teams were allowed to start practicing Monday. The governor also has said fairs and festivals can begin again on July 1.
For most people, the virus cases mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.