Coronavirus Update: Monongalia County bars ordered closed again; School meal waivers extended; nursing scholarships funded

WV Press Report:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Noting that West Virginia was trending in the wrong direction in many measurements related to COVID-19, Governor Jim Justice took action Monday that focuses on young people gathering in Monongalia County and on WVU students.

Gov. Justice has issued an executive order​ once again closing all bars in Monongalia County until further notice. The order was effective immediately on Wednesday. The countywide bar closure will remain in place until lifted by further executive order.

The new closure comes two days after bars in Monongalia County were permitted to open their doors for the first time since mid-July.

On Monday, Gov. Justice said that state officials would be watching and monitoring progress closely, adding that if things “start to move in the wrong direction, we’ll shut them back down.”

Governor’s comments begin at the 10:05 mark of this video.

On Wednesday, Justice explained this latest decision: “We all saw pictures from last night where students were congregating outside of bars in Mon County with no masks and no social distancing. …”

The Governor added that health officials in Monongalia County have now identified 29 positive COVID-19 cases within 12 fraternities and sororities on WVU’s campus.

The order keeps all Monongalia County bars closed for the on-premises consumption of food or drinks or occupancy by the general public. However, customers are still permitted to pick up food or drinks to be taken away. The order maintains that patrons are allowed to be seated, for dining, at tables and bar tops within “bar areas” of restaurants, hotels, and other similar facilities, subject to the same limitations that are in place for restaurants.

Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials Wednesday and addressed the issues as part of his press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

School meal waivers:

United States Department of Agriculture has granted West Virginia an extension of school meal waivers, which will allow the West Virginia Department of Education to continue the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through Dec. 31, 2020.

“This is just going to ensure that we’re able to continue helping our kids,” Gov. Justice said.

This extension will ensure that participating schools and private organizations have the flexibility they need to reach children who rely on free and reduced-price school meals.

The waivers cover meals to students in all learning models, including in-person, remote, or virtual, including:

  • Area Eligibility, which allows meals to be provided in areas that don’t meet the 50 percent area eligibility; 
  • Non-Congregate Feeding, which allows meals to be served outside of group settings (meals can be distributed at a site where families pick up the meals, and they can be delivered to children’s homes); 
  • Meal Service Times, which provide flexibility to the meal service time requirements by allowing service outside of standard meal times; and 
  • Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children, which allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.

The continuation of these waivers will allow educators and school service personnel to focus on transitioning students back into the classroom after the extended break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program:

Gov. Justice also announced Wednesday that state is committing $92,500 to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission to fully fund the West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program for this year.

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