CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has restored full seating capacity to restaurants and bars in West Virginia as active COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop.
Justice announced a number of relaxations of previous mandates during his Friday media briefing at the state capitol.
As long as social distancing can be maintained, restaurants and bars can return to 100% seating capacity and small businesses and retail stores can open their businesses to patrons and 100% capacity.
Justice said congregating in large groups near the entrances of restaurants and bars would still not be allowed. His indoor mask mandate remains in effect for all public places.
“I encourage everyone, everyone there to have some sense and absolutely try at all times to keep your mask on,” Justice said.
Justice said museums and fitness centers can go back to 100% capacity and travel sports teams can play statewide unless a county is red on the COVID-19 map.
Capacity for public gatherings has now been increased to 100 people by the governor.
Friday marked the 48th straight day the state has seen a drop in active COVID-19 cases and nearly 210,000 state residents have now been fully vaccinated.
Justice said he is exercising caution. He said he’s not yet ready to relax all restrictions.
“Let’s just don’t get too anxious to lift everything away and then get some level of whiplash that really hurts us,” he said.
State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said there’s been no evidence of COVID-19 outbreaks in public places. He said the governor’s decision was not entered into lightly.
“We are prioritizing the health, well-being and the lives of the people in this state,” Marsh said. “I am 100% comfortable (with Justice’s decision) and his touch with this.”
Justice said he’s trying to strike a balance.
“It’s my responsibility to lead us in the right path and be as cautious as I can be while still trying in every way for us to live with this terrible killer and get us back to as much normalcy as we can possibly get to,” Justice said.
Justice said the information announced Friday would go into effect at midnight.
He added that those with fairs and festivals should plan to have their events this year but guidelines from his office have not been finalized.
“I hope you continue to plan for that to become a reality and we get close we’ll clarify the different guidelines. I’ve very hopefully our fairs and festivals would go on,” he said.
Justice said the situation with seating at high school sporting events remains in the hands of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.