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Next phase of West Virginia re-opening plan starts May 21

Gov. Jim Justice holds up a map showing how low West Virginia’s coronavirus case numbers are when compared to other states. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — Using this week as a buffer, several businesses will be allowed to reopen starting May 21 to give them plenty of time to prepare.

Gov. Jim Justice said Monday indoor dining up to 50 percent of the capacity of the restaurant and large specialty retail stores can reopen starting May 21. Campgrounds can reopen for in-state residents only, as well as campsites, cabins, and lodges at state parks starting May 26.

Justice, speaking during Monday’s daily coronavirus briefing from the Capitol, said more openings will be announced soon as long as West Virginia’s daily increase in COVID-19 cases remains low.

“The numbers continue to be phenomenally good,” Justice said. “Every day that we can continue to pump out these numbers to the good, we’ll try to push more and more things for you to be able to do.”

Outdoor recreation rentals, such as kayaks, canoes, bicycles, boats, rafts and ATVs, also will be allowed to reopen. Outdoor motorsports, such as race cars or power boats, can reopen, although no spectators will be allowed.

The Hatfield and McCoy ATV trail system in southern West Virginia is slated to reopen next week. Guided fishing trips will restart May 15, but will be limited to two anglers and one guide per boat.

Other outdoor activities have either been pushed back or are still on hiatus. Youth sports with low physical contact has beed pushed back until June 8. Whitewater rafting is on indefinite pause while health experts deal with the issue of putting large groups in rafts.

“My family loves whitewater rafting and want to get back there as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state coronavirus czar. “But we really do need to work with the professionals who have these businesses and the industry to figure out how we can do this safely so we don’t expose people to new contacts that sit beside them in the buses or right next to them on rafts.”

Starting today, wellness facilities and gyms supervised by licensed professionals and drive-in movie theaters are allowed to reopen. Small businesses with less than 10 employees, outdoor dining, churches and houses of worship, hair and nail salons, barbers and dog groomers reopened last week. Elective medical procedures at hospitals and outpatient medical facilities were reopened the week before.

Guidance for businesses and facilities can be found at governor.wv.gov. Residents are still being encouraged to wear cloth face masks, wash hands, maintain 6 feet of distance from others, use hand sanitizer and be courteous. An emergency rule still requires businesses to limit the number of occupants in businesses at one time, create one-way aisles, provide access to hand sanitizer, and keep store clean.

“West Virginia absolutely needs to stay focused in every way as we possibly can,” Justice said. “I would again caution everyone as we’re reopening, surely indoors wear a mask, absolutely do everything you can possibly do to wash your hands and do social distancing.”

Most of the state is under Justice’s safer-at-home executive order, which encourages people to stay home when possible, but it lifts mandates and allows groups no larger than 25 people, though churches and houses of worship are exempt. Berkeley, Jefferson, Monongalia, Marion and Harrison counties remain under the tighter restrictions which limit non-essential travel and groups larger than five people.

Also announced Monday, the executive order requiring out-of-state residents to self-quarantine for 14 days will be lifted May 21. The order was put in place to limit travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut for spreading the coronavirus in the state.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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