Gov. Jim Justice has announced a flurry of reopenings while continuing to urge social distancing and the wearing of facemasks.
“It’s a bad situation and probably the toughest situation of my life,” Justice said Monday when speaking about the balance between health concerns and economic activity.
“And I’ve been through a lot of tough stuff, and I’m able to handle the tough stuff because I’ve been conditioned. I’ve been weathered.”
Even while easing restrictions, Justice said state leaders will continue to monitor the spread of coronavirus and react if they identify a spike.
“This is a fluid situation. Some of these are subject to change,” Justice said.
Indoor malls: may open Thursday
The Justice administration had already rolled out guidance for large specialty retail stores to reopen this Thursday. But a question lingered about when indoor shopping malls could reopen today.
“From the standpoint of our specialty retail opening back up and our big box stores opening back up, naturally our malls ought to be open,” Justice said.
Today, Justice said that may happen later this week.
The governor said that decision was made with the guidance of state medical experts.
More opens next Tuesday
Justice recognized that Memorial Day Weekend will affect the next phase of reopenings.
The governor said the holiday will be observed Monday and then more openings will be allowed on Tuesday.
“Starting on Tuesday gives us a little more time to prepare and allows us to pause for Memorial Day in respect to those we’ve lost,” Justice said.
The sectors that may reopen this day include indoor and outdoor bars at 50 percent capacity.
And State Park spas and lodges for in-state residents only will open.
So may museums, visitors centers and zoos.
Even more may open May 30
Spas and massage businesses may open May 30, which is a Saturday.
Limited video lottery retailers also may open that day.
Casinos may open June 5
That date is a Friday.
West Virginia’s casinos are at Hollywood Casino & Inn at Charles Town Races, Mardi Gras Casino & Resort at Nitro, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in Hancock County and The Greenbrier Resort, which is owned by Justice’s family.
Justice said state Lottery Director John Myers has been involved with the development of guidance.
Hotspots: concluded, but ‘rapid response’ could still be activated for communities
Justice announced that Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, Jefferson and Berkeley counties would be removed as hotspots.
“Under the new system, we no longer have counties under the hotspot alert,” Justice said.
Counties designated as hotspots had public gatherings limited to five people, and local health departments put greater restrictions on the number of people per square feet inside businesses.
West Virginia is transitioning to a ‘rapid response’ system where communities with identified spikes over a rolling 7-day period would receive greater restrictions or more support or both.
So areas could wind up being treated almost as hotspots again, but possibly without that term being used and with a different response.
Counties, cities may apply for CARES Act funding through the state
West Virginia received $1.25 billion in federal relief funding, and local governments are eligible to use some of that money.
The governor said applications for counties and municipalities went live on Friday evening.
“I encourage all counties and cities to apply,” Justice said.
He acknowledged that federal guidance so far has mostly limited spending of that money to direct response to the coronavirus.
But, “We are still very, very hopeful — and the federal guidelines, you know, are changing nonstop, and they’re very, very fluid. Jim Justice believes, as he has believed from Day 1 about all this, that the guidelines will become favorable to us before it’s over.”