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Coronavirus Update: West Virginia Governor reduces social gathering limit; closes fairs, festivals, and concerts statewide; closes bars in Monongalia County

Free community COVID-19 testing this week in Barbour, Berkeley, Harrison, Jefferson, and Mercer counties

Release from the office of the Governor:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to climb across West Virginia, Gov. Justice announced Monday that he has issued an executive order reducing the statewide social gathering limit from 100 to 25 individuals.

“We want everyone to know this is not playtime stuff,” Gov. Justice said. “We now, in West Virginia, have 1,338 active cases. We have grown 206 active cases since I saw you the last time on Friday. 

Gov. Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials for a press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

The order went into effect this morning: Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.

“We are in great shape with our hospitals. But there’s no guarantee that it’s going to stay that way,” Gov. Justice continued. “So we have got to significantly restrict the crowd size again.”

The 25-person limitation applies only to purely social gatherings. It 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, as defined by Executive Order 9-20as amended. Such meetings, conferences, or other special events will need to plan for social distancing between attendees based on CDC recommendations.

Additionally the Governor announced that the same executive order also closes all fairs, festivals, and similar events, and prohibits both indoor and outdoor concerts statewide.

“It’s no fun to close things,” Gov. Justice said. “But we’ve got to do the things that are going to be the prudent things for all West Virginians, so we can still do many of the things that we love to do.”

In more specific action, Justice announced that he has issued another executive order, closing all bars in Monongalia County for 10 days, after seeing a significant spike in positive cases in the area in recent days.

“This is a real hotspot,” Gov. Justice said. “Their rise in active cases and the number of community-based outbreaks is extremely concerning. With their current active cases at 340, we must act right now to stop this from getting any worse.

“Students are coming back to school and a huge threat is the students congregating at the bars,” Gov. Justice continued. “During that 10-day period, I am very hopeful that what’s going to happen is that we’re going to begin to see a correction in the numbers.”

Gov. Justice pointed out that, according to recent information from the Texas Medical Association, going to bars ranks among the riskiest activities possible when it comes to furthering the spread of COVID-19.

Monongalia County restaurants that also include bars will have their bars closed, but will be permitted to continue restaurant service, including the sale of alcoholic beverages to dine-in customers.

After receiving reports of large church gatherings in various places across the state this weekend, Gov. Justice again urged all West Virginians to wear face coverings and properly social distance from one another to help prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“It is absolutely mandatory that you wear a mask to church and it is only the smart thing to do,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going the wrong way here. We’ve got to get this thing turned around and going the way we want it to go.

“I’m a Christian and I’m really proud of it,” Gov. Justice continued. “I truly understand the importance of church and I understand that it is the highest priority in our lives and I get it.

“But then I see a photo of one of our church settings and there’s no one anywhere in the congregation that’s got a mask on. There’s no pews in-between people. We’re just asking for it.

“I don’t question our love. But, at the same time, we cannot keep doing this. We just can’t.”

Free community COVID-19 testing will continue through this week in West Virginia at various dates and times in Barbour, Berkeley, Harrison, Jefferson, and Mercer counties.

The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.

Testing is scheduled as follows:

Barbour County
Thursday, July 16

11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Philip Barbour High School: 99 Horseshoe Drive, Philippi, WV

Berkeley County
Friday, July 17 & Saturday, July 18

7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Patriot Antique Center and Flea Market: 615 King Street, Martinsburg, WV

Harrison County
Tuesday, July 14

12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Robert C. Byrd High School: 1 Eagle Way, Clarksburg, WV

Jefferson County
Friday, July 17 & Saturday, July 18
7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ranson Civic Center: 432 W. 2nd Avenue, Ranson, WV

Mercer County
Friday, July 17

9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Mercer County Health Department: 978 Blue Prince Road, Bluefield, WV.

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