CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that his mask-wearing mandate is currently on the honor system but he’s willing to change that if the state’s COVID-19 cases continue to trend in the wrong direction.
“If you can’t (follow the mandate) we’ll have to move and make that more strenuous from the standpoint that we’ll have to assess some level of penalties for your non-compliance for not wearing those masks,” Justice said at his Wednesday coronavirus media briefing.
Justice announced mask his mandate Monday. It requires facial coverings to be worn in public buildings in West Virginia where social distancing cannot be maintained. The mandate currently includes no enforcement or penalties.
“I entrust West Virginians can handle that and be on an honor system,” Justice said, adding that his executive order is not a suggestion but a requirement with only limited exceptions.
“We have got to have you know that it’s an executive order from the governor that masks are mandatory in public buildings and absolutely, please West Virginians, please let’s do this,” Justice said.
More than two dozen other states have mask mandates and some include penalties. Justice’s order, which includes everyone over the age of 9, falls under the emergency declaration from the Governor’s Office that was first established a few months ago when the state began taking coronavirus precautions.
The state’s COVID-19 numbers went up against Wednesday. Justice said more than half of the recent increase in cases is from Monongalia County.
“There may very well be a point in time when we have to treat this on a county by county or a regional assessment in West Virginia different than a statewide assessment,” he said.
Justice said state residents have the power to stop the increases.
“If you’ll just absolutely try with all in you to protect yourself and protect others, love your neighbor, just like absolutely that we should be always doing–we’ll be okay,” he said.