Now that West Virginia is a few weeks into incrementally easing coronavirus-related restrictions, Gov. Jim Justice acknowledges that some want to know when they’ll be next.
“Sure, sure we’ve got everybody saying, ‘Well, if you’re opening up tanning beds, why can’t I be open as a spa?” Justice said Tuesday. “There are so many variations we’re trying to balance as best we possibly can.”
Justice originally issued a broad stay-home order that included exceptions for businesses considered essential. In the past few weeks, those restrictions have started to be lifted gradually.
“Now we’re getting down to the end here to where we’re getting fewer and fewer and fewer things that are still not open. Trust me, as we get to fewer and fewer things people are voicing opinions even louder, saying why not me,” Justice said.
Here are some sectors that were discussed at the latest briefing:
Restaurants: next week for indoor seating at 50 percent capacity
Next week, which is Week 4 in Justice’s “Comeback” plan, includes the resumption of indoor dining at restaurants at 50 percent seating capacity.
Justice acknowledged some restaurants likely wonder if they can meet their bottom line at 50 percent capacity. But he said social distancing requires keeping restaurant crowds down right now.
“It is surely problematic, and I get it. I get it wholeheartedly,” he said.
Big box retailers: next week
Next week also allows big box retailers to resume sales May 21, right before Memorial Day Weekend, if they have entrances directly from the outside.
Indoor shopping malls: still assessing
Justice said his administration is working with indoor malls “to see if we can get some really good guidance from them as to how they’re going to protect the people as they enter the malls and they go into a smaller, funnel type of an area.”
He said, “I’d like us to bring back our indoor malls as soon as we possibly can.”
Wellness centers: allowed to open
Wellness centers, defined as facilities offering activities such as exercise therapy and physical therapy and overseen by licensed health care providers, were allowed to open up this week.
Your local workout gym: maybe soon
That prompted some people to ask when their gyms could open to resume regular workouts. Asked about opening gyms during the briefing, Justice hinted, “I would say very soon.”
Justice, responding to a question, acknowledged that in some cases the line between a wellness center and an adjacent workout gym has been blurry. He said the original intent was for people in rehabilitation to be able to work out while under the supervision of a medical professional.
“To be perfectly honest, we’ve got pushing the envelope there probably further than I preferred it to be pushed,” he said.
“But I’m very hopeful that we’re going to remedy the situation with the gyms and get back into the gyms as soon as we possibly can.”
Summer youth sports: being weighed carefully
The governor again acknowledged youth sports teams have been wondering about resuming summer schedules. He has suggested a policy could be aimed at resuming sports where some degree of social distancing could be accomplished.
But he is concerned about how the virus affects children. “We’re monitoring that.”
Day cares: practical considerations
Day cares were beginning the process of opening as part of Week 1, with an emphasis on testing of staff.
When asked if he could elaborate on other aspects of reopening child care facilities — such as whether children in groups would be separated from other groups — Justice said he is aware of the difficulties of encouraging social distancing by children.
“I surely know you can’t keep kids from piling on top of one another and doing all the stuff kids do,” the governor said.
“That’s a terrible balancing thing because people have got to go to work, they’ve got their children they need to have in day care, and keeping all those balls in the air is difficult.”
Casinos: maybe within a month
West Virginia’s casinos were among operations without a stated timeline in Justice’s reopening plan.
Today, he said some states are starting to reopen casinos. But his worry is that they would attract out-of-state tourists who could be carriers of the coronavirus.
“The one thing we don’t want is to open up our casinos and run a bunch of people from right across the border right across us because the casinos would surely be a gigantic draw,” he said.
He suggested casinos might open at the end of May or in the first half of June.
Big sporting events: hard to envision yet
When asked about ways society might change for good, Justice mentioned crowds that gathered in stadiums before coronavirus precautions became necessary.
For example, the excited crowds that gathered for big sporting events.
He said he hopes medical treatment or a vaccine will enable fans to attend such events again, but the governor said people probably won’t view big crowds casually for a long time.
“This pandemic will leave a scar with all of us,” he said. “And it will be with us through all our lifetimes.”
Masks: recommended but not mandated
Some states, like Maryland, have mandated masks for people who go out in public.
Facial coverings are recommended because they can provide additional protection for people you come into contact with while at a store or in newly reopened workplaces.
Justice said he recommends wearing a mask when going out, but he thinks a mandate would be divisive.
“I urged, but I am not going to make it mandatory at this point in time,” he said. “I urge like crazy, if you go out, that you wear a facemask.”
Justice has said economic needs require easing restrictions, but he has continued to express concern about doing that safely.
“I’m trying to balance this to where we go back and we’re protecting you in every which way we possibly can,” he said.
He recommended continued social distancing measures, telecommuting when possible, washing hands and wearing face coverings when in public.
Otherwise, he said, there could be a resurgence in West Virginia, which has health vulnerabilities such as an older population and prevalence of diabetes and heart and lung disease.
“When this thing snaps back, if it does, it can really, really hurt us,” he said.