Statewide indoor face covering requirement updated
With Covid-19 case numbers continuing to set record highs in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that he has issued an executive order, amending and broadening his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.
“In West Virginia, today, we have 339 people hospitalized. That’s an all-time record. We have 104 patients in our ICUs. That’s another record. We’re up to 565 deaths,” Gov. Justice said. “We have got to realize what we’re dealing with here, it is a massive massive killer. We have knocked it out of the park with our numbers so far in comparison to others. But, West Virginia, we’ve got to tighten up.”
The new order requires all West Virginians age 9 and older to wear a face covering at all times inside all indoor public places. This differs from the Governor’s initial indoor face covering requirement, which allowed masks to be removed in such places if adequate social distancing could be maintained. Under the new order, that exception no longer exists.
The requirement does not apply to anyone who has trouble breathing or anyone who is otherwise unable to remove their own face covering without assistance. It also does not apply to anyone inside a restaurant and actively consuming food or beverages, anyone who is inside a closed room by themselves, or inside one’s residence.
Additionally, the new order requires that all businesses and organizations that invite the public into their facilities must post adequate signage advising guests of the requirement and are also responsible for enforcing the requirement to ensure it is being followed.
“I am calling for all business owners and managers in West Virginia to step up to make sure that everyone in these businesses is wearing a face covering all the time inside these buildings,” Justice said.
“Let’s go one step further and say, to our business owners, what follows this is the shutting down of businesses. From the standpoint of where we are right now, if you don’t step up, business owners, and make it mandatory to wear face coverings when people are entering your businesses, we are going to end up having to take further steps because we will not be able to slow this thing down and stop it.”
For children ages 2 years old through 8 years old, face coverings are not required. However, it is recommended that parents or guardians use their best judgment as to when to assist their children, ages 2 through 8, with wearing a face covering.
Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance should not wear face coverings and are exempt from the face covering requirement.
Face shields are an acceptable substitute for those with physical conditions that may cause them to be unable to properly wear a face covering.
The updated indoor face covering requirement went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Guidance documents that are a part of the Governor’s reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – will be revised to reflect the new requirement.
The original Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement was established by executive order on July 7.
View the latest COVID-19 data at Coronavirus.wv.gov.
Winter interscholastic and travel sports seasons delayed
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that he has issued an executive order, postponing the start date for all youth winter sports teams and leagues.
The order prohibits all youth winter sports teams and leagues, whether school-sanctioned or otherwise, including but not limited to basketball, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading, from bringing players and/or spectators together into a common area within West Virginia for practices, games, or any other type of competition until no sooner than Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
Any winter sports teams that have begun to practice must cease immediately.
All fall sports that were previously underway will be permitted to conclude their seasons, provided that teams are eligible to compete in accordance with their county’s color code in the WVDE’s School Alert System map and the DHHR’s County Alert System map (Click "County Alert System" tab).
“We have been fortunate, in West Virginia, to be able to play sports in the fall. Virginia and Maryland have not had any fall sports,” Justice said. “But winter sports are indoor sports, and I don’t know how on this planet we can possibly think about playing indoors right now. It’s just going to make things worse.
“We are very hopeful that we’ll be able to start back up on Jan. 11,” he continued. “This will give us the opportunity to settle this thing down.”
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission will soon issue a new interscholastic winter sports schedule, which will be made available on the WVSSAC website.
The Governor added that when youth travel sports leagues and other non-school-affiliated sports programs resume, teams will be required to follow the county alert system maps in the same manner as interscholastic teams.
Thanksgiving break extended for all schools
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice issued an executive order, extending Thanksgiving break for all public and private schools in West Virginia by an additional three days.
“We all know that families are going to come together over Thanksgiving, and as families come together, we all know the probability of more of a spread is right at our fingertips again,” Justice said. “So, from Thursday of Thanksgiving, until the next Thursday, no one will go to school.”
Public and private schools in all 55 counties may resume in-person instruction on Thursday, Dec. 3.
“That will give us at least a seven-day period that the medical experts tell us will be a big help in making sure any potential spread from Thanksgiving is contained before it becomes a problem,” Gov. Justice said.
Band festivals canceled
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, at the request of the West Virginia Bandmasters, who oversee all the public school bands across the state, all band festivals scheduled for this coming spring have been canceled.
The Governor also announced the cancellation of all concert band festivals for the rest of this year.
“The Bandmasters made this recommendation to the state Board of Education and to me and we all agreed that it’s the right thing to do,” Gov. Justice said.
Nursing home, assisted living facility employees to be tested twice weekly
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice issued an executive order, requiring that all doctors, nurses, staff, and employees working at nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.
“We must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable citizens, especially the residents of our nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Gov. Justice said. “Every time they’ve needed help, we’ve run to the fire. But we want to do even more to be proactive.”
Under the leadership of Gov. Justice, West Virginia was the first state in the nation to order the full testing of all residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Later, the CDC sent a letter to all 50 states, calling on them to follow West Virginia’s lead by focusing their COVID-19 testing efforts on nursing homes and other vulnerable communities.
The new twice weekly staff testing requirement will remain in place until rescinded or adjusted by further executive order.