MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Monday announced an extension of the order keeping Monongalia County bars closed.
The order, which was to expire Thursday, has been extended to Aug. 20 following recommendations to the governor. The order previously was extended past it July 23 and Aug. 3 deadlines.
The extension comes as coronavirus cases across West Virginia continue to increase; the state Department of Health and Human Resources has recorded 953 confirmed and probable cases in Monongalia County as of Wednesday evening. Fifty-two coronavirus cases are active.
“The numbers are better there. They have done much better, and that’s good,” Justice said Wednesday. “If we can come with a protocol that truly works of going ahead and reopening and having those businesses function, we’ll do so.”
Justice said during the next week, state officials will reach out to bar owners and medical officials about how to have bars safely open.
Bars in Monongalia County are allowed to sell food for take-out consumption. Customers can also eat at bar areas of restaurants and hotels, which are subject to statewide restaurant rules.
Justice said he consulted with local leaders, who he claimed want the state to have the final choice.
“They gave us direction on whether to close. Now, they’re kind of diving in a ditch and saying they don’t have any input,” Justice said. “To be perfectly honest, that’s their county. And they should surely to goodness have input,” he added.
Monongalia County Commission President Ed Hawkins told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM that the commission has never provided input on bar closures, but it has spoken about bar areas in restaurants.
“To say this commission sidestepped, ducked, ran for cover or whatever is totally not the case,” he said. “This commission is dedicated to leadership, and we will continue to do so.”
Hawkins added Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar, contacted him for input hours before Justice announced the extension.
Justice’s order comes two weeks before classes are scheduled to begin at West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus.