Jim Justice expands face covering mandate, requires businesses to enforce in West Virginia


People in West Virginia now will be required to wear face coverings in all indoor public places even if social distancing is being observed, Gov. Jim Justice ordered.

Under Justice’s previous COVID-19 restrictions, face masks were required only in indoor public places if social distancing was not being observed. With cases rising in the state, Justice's new executive order rescinds that exception.

Businesses and other organizations that invite people into their public facilities will be required to post signs that adequately explain the executive order. Businesses also will have to enforce the requirement on customers, and the governor has threatened action against businesses that do not do so.

The order does not apply to people while actively eating or drinking at a restaurant or bar or if a person is in a closed room by himself.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Children 8 years old or younger, those with breathing problems and those who cannot remove a face covering without assistance are exempt from the order. Children less than 2 years old should not wear face coverings, and parents of children between 2 and 8 years old should decide based on their judgement, according to the governor’s office.

“In West Virginia, today, we have 339 people hospitalized,” Justice said. “That’s an all-time record. We have 104 patients in our ICUs. That’s another record. We’re up to 565 deaths. 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 order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

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