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Justice: Indoor restaurant dining to resume before Memorial Day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Restaurants in West Virginia will once again be able to offer indoor dining starting May 21, according to Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice announced Week-4 of his reopening plan for the state’s economy during his coronavirus media briefing Monday at the state capitol.

Justice said Week-4 will actually begin May 18 but they want to take a few more days to make sure testing numbers continue to be good and restaurants are ready to reopen. May 21 is the Thursday before the Memorial Day Weekend.

The reopening restricts restaurants to use only 50 percent of their dining capacity.

Justice said he’s taking the additional steps to reopen the state’s economy based on the state’s coronavirus cases.

“The numbers continue to be phenomenally good and every day that we can continue to pump out these numbers of good, we’ll try to push more and more things for you to be able to do,” Justice said.

The R-naught number for the state, which is the rate at which the virus can spread, was under 1 again on Monday. The state’s positive test rate for coronavirus continues to be under 2.2 percent.

Justice said he’s confident the restaurant industry is ready to do all that’s required to reopen indoor dining including not allowing those waiting for a table to congregate, keeping parties below a half dozen and taking precautions when it comes to touching menus.

He said he’s confident about the direction things are heading but he doesn’t believe he’s overconfident.

Gov. Jim Justice

“I believe we’re okay,” Justice said. “But I am concerned, I’ll be concerned until this thing is gone. We’ll watch it and watch it every single day.”

Also reopening May 21, according to Justice, will be large specialty retail stores, including mall anchor stores with separate outside entrances and state-operated campgrounds, for in-state residents only. Shopping malls are not yet part of the reopening plan.

Justice said his previous executive order requiring out-of-state residents visiting West Virginia for an extended period of time to quarantine for 14 days will also be lifted May 21.

West Virginia State Park lodges and cabins will reopen to state residents only beginning Tuesday, May 26, the day after Memorial Day.

Justice said beginning this Friday, May 15, guided fishing trips with two anglers and one guide will be allowed to resume.

Justice said he’s hoping he can announce the resumption of low-contact outdoor youth sports like baseball, softball and maybe soccer for June 8. He said he’s not ready to do that yet with basketball and football.

There’s been a lot of questions about the reopening of the Whitewater rafting industry. Justice said Monday that discussions are underway but he’s not yet ready to do it.

“I totally get it. I want this industry open and running, up and going but the health experts, and they’re right, the health experts are really concerned,” he said.

The concern, he said, is based on the numbers of people that ride buses down to the river and the numbers of people who typically are in a raft. Justice said the discussions will continue.

Justice said he reserves the right to pull back the reins on the reopening if there’s a hotspot or spike in numbers in certain areas of the state. He said the numbers will continue go in the right direction if state residents continue to respond correctly.

“You just can’t drop the ball right now, that’s all I ask you to not do. Just don’t get relaxed. Just don’t drop the ball. You can absolutely see this thing all the way to its end,” Justice said.

Justice’s safe-at-home order remains in effect.

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