Justice eases restrictions on restaurants, bars, retail shops and grocery stores

Gov. Jim Justice, shown here in a Wednesday Covid briefing, has eased restrictions on restaurants and bars, retail shops and grocery stores, as well as calling on the state Board of Education to send students in grades Pre-K-8 back to class five days a week.

Gov. Justice had seen enough evidence in declining state statistics related to the pandemic that he issued a series of executive orders on Friday, loosening restrictions on restaurants and bars, retail shops and grocery stores, as well as calling on the state Board of Education to send students in grades Pre-K-8 back to class five days a week.

The governor is lifting the capacity limit for all restaurants and bars from 50 percent of their seating capacity to 75 percent seating capacity.

This change applies only if social distancing can be maintained between groups that arrive and sit together.

Bars may only increase capacity to the extent that they have physical seating for every patron. No standing room for people to congregate will be allowed.

The changes for bars and restaurants goes into effect at midnight Friday.

These businesses must still continue to follow all applicable safety guidelines, including mandatory face coverings and social distancing.

Also, as directed by the governor, the DHHR amended its rules on capacity limitations for small businesses, retail stores and grocery stores.

For small businesses and retail stores, capacity will be permitted to increase from 2 people per 1,000 square feet to 4 people per 1,000 square feet.

For grocery stores, capacity will be permitted to increase from 3 people per 1,000 square feet to 6 people per 1,000 square feet.

These businesses must still follow guidelines related to face coverings and social distancing.

Justice also increased social gathering limits from 25 people to 75 people.

This limitation applies only for any gathering of people for purely social purposes. The limitation does not apply to any activity, business, or entity that has been deemed essential, such as religious services, weddings, or group meetings, conferences, or other special events held for essential businesses and operations.

People at social gatherings must continue to social distance, wear face coverings and follow all other applicable safety guidelines.

The governor is also eager to get all school children back in class five days a week.

On Friday he announced that he is calling on the West Virginia Board of Education to make it mandatory that all counties send their students in grades Pre-K-8 back full-time.

Justice noted that, by next week, all teachers and school service personnel over 50 years of age, who requested to be vaccinated, will have received their second dose.

The governor went on to add that he has been working with the state’s high school sports governing body, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, regarding the upcoming winter sports season, to ensure it has occupancy rules or attendance limitations that meet all social distancing requirements and all other guidelines.

The governor also issued an executive order clarifying the prohibition on live indoor music performances.

Live music performances, except for those incorporating vocals or using wind instruments, may take place indoors, so long as the event is held in accordance with all applicable safety guidelines.

Live music incorporating vocals or using wind instruments may be performed indoors only for simulcast or other broadcast to remote audiences where no audience is physically present.

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