House passes resolution to end some coronavirus orders

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed a resolution Wednesday setting an expiration date for some emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The House approved House Concurrent Resolution 104, which states multiple orders currently in effect will expire May 17. The chamber voted 76-24 to send the matter to the Senate.

Multiple emergency orders would be exempt, including directives from Gov. Jim Justice requiring coronavirus testing for residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which the governor issued last spring. The statewide mandate requiring facial coverings in indoor places is not listed among the possible exempt orders.

“Any executive order that has been in place since April 6 of this year, unless it’s been specifically exempted out in the resolution, they would cease to be effective,” Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, said.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, questioned the reason behind the bill, noting the only order still enforced is the mask mandate.

“If you remove the mandate, people think that we’re in the clear,” he said. “It sends the message that we’re completely in the clear, even though we are so close to the finish line here. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Wednesday’s vote happened as the state Legislature is in the final week of this year’s regular session. Justice issued a proclamation Wednesday extending the period through Sunday so legislators can pass a budget bill.

The vote also occurred amid ongoing concerns about a rise in coronavirus variants among younger West Virginians; according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, there are 6,897 confirmed active coronavirus cases in West Virginia. Health officials spoke during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing about the rise of cases involving the United Kingdom and California variants.

“We are about ready to have a surge in our state,” Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said. “I don’t know how many of you know people that died from COVID or know people who were very sick or know people that are still sick, but I think all of the medical experts are saying we should continue to wear masks.”

A simple majority vote in both legislative chambers is necessary for the resolution to pass.

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