So, that did not go well.
Last Friday, Governor Jim Justice said Monongalia County bars could reopen the following Monday, under certain restrictions.
“Our agencies are working on a plan to potentially expand their outdoor space capabilities especially for weekend crowds,” Justice said. “We’re working with them and I’m happy their business can come back.”
Bars are big business in Monongalia County. Morgantown is home to 27,000 West Virginia University students. Even after you subtract for those under 21 and students who do not drink or frequent bars, there is still a sizable number of thirsty young people.
University leaders appealed to students to follow safety guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing. WVU even asks students to complete a daily safety survey to receive an electronic “pass” for the day.
The University has rigorous testing in place, as well as quarantine and isolation protocols for students who have Covid-19 or have been exposed to someone who has the virus.
But all the plans and procedures are as worthless as an empty keg when students decide to celebrate the reopening of bars by carelessly congregating, and when bars ignore safety protocols.
University administrators and health officials started receiving emails and texts Tuesday night of pictures of students standing in line, cheek to jowl, waiting to get into bars.
WVU President E. Gordon Gee, who has a reputation for treating students as adults but also trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, was losing his patience. “To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement,” he said in a statement to WVU and the Morgantown community.
He called the unmasked, close quarters cueing up “a flagrant disregard for our community’s safety, both the campus community and the city of Morgantown.”
He also promised the University would try to identify those lined-up students ignoring the safety guidelines and refer them to Student Conduct for “appropriate discipline.” WVU has already targeted nearly three-dozen students for disciplinary action.
Gee was not alone. Governor Justice responded quickly by shutting down the bars as of four o’clock yesterday afternoon. “What do we do? Boom, right off the get-go. We’ve got people standing on top of people. We’ve got no masks,” Justice said at his Wednesday briefing.
It is too much to expect every college student to follow all the rules, even when there are consequences for breaking them. Maybe there really is no workable solution for keeping everyone safe, whether it is on or near the campus.
Still, for the health of themselves and others, for the sake of the University that they value enough to attend, for the good of the community in which they now live, and even for the economic well-being of the bars they love to frequent, can these students at least try a little harder to follow the guidelines?