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Greenbrier County traversing new waters with mask mandate

LEWISBURG, W.Va. — A new mask mandate in Greenbrier County will be in effect for at least three weeks.

Dr. Bridgett Morrison

Greenbrier County Health Officer Dr. Bridgett Morrison told MetroNews Monday that’s how long until the next meeting Greenbrier County Commission.

A new state law gives county commissions veto power over health department decisions.

Morrison said the new law has put an additional burden on public health officials and their ability to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

“There lies the problem where you have politics come into it as well,” Morrison said. “A lot of the health officers are begging and have been begging the governor (Gov. Jim Justice) to make this (masks) a mandate so it will be easier to enforce.”

But Justice has said over and over again he doesn’t believe a statewide mandate is needed. He’s favored county by county decisions.

Greenbrier County is the only county with a mask mandate. Morrison said she’s thankful her health board finally agreed. She hopes the county commission will allow the mandate to continue if case numbers and hospital numbers continue to show it’s needed.

“I know that everybody’s in the same boat when it comes to politics. A year ago it was easier to convince people to do this, now it’s a lot harder,” Morrison said.

Last Friday’s announcement by the Greenbrier County Board of Health also included a pair of comments from two members of the Greenbrier County Commission.

Lowell Rose

“The other members of the county commission and I take our responsibility of protecting the residents of Greenbrier County very seriously,” stated Greenbrier County Commission President Lowell Rose.

Greenbrier County Commissioner Tammy Tincher added, “We value the opinion and work of the Greenbrier County Board of Health, and look forward to working together as we review the mask mandate.”

A mask mandate inside public buildings provides an extra layer of protection, Morrison said.

“We ask and have been begging for people to wear masks. Some people stepped up and were doing so but not enough,” she said.

Greenbrier County was ‘orange’ on Monday’s COVID-19 daily alert map with a percentage positivity rate of 7.46% and an infection rate of 79.54.

Morrison, who also is a hospitalist at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, said too many people have COVID and too many lives are being lost.

“Every day we’re losing more people and young people too. It’s disheartening,” Morrison said. “It’s real easy to not know the extreme of what’s going on. Essentially our facility and most places are operating in disaster mode.”

According to the Greenbrier County mandate, any individual in the county, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a mask or face covering over their mouth and nose while inside any building open to the public. There are exceptions for children under the age of 2, people who have trouble breathing for a documented medical reason and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

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