MORGANTOWN — On Friday, the limit on public gatherings quadrupled, from 25 to 100 attendees allowed. But Justice said the actual number is less important than the practices of the people involved.
“I can’t really say why it’s that number,” he said, when asked how they decide on the cap. “If you have a gathering of 50 and they do all the wrong stuff, you’re going to have just as much exposure as a gathering of 100.”
But having limits allows them to keep their “hands on the reins” a bit, he explained.
The question led naturally for others to wonder how that limit — which Justice has already said doesn’t apply to the current Black Lives Matters demonstrations across the state — might affect Fourth of July gatherings.
It won’t, Justice acquiesced.
“They absolutely have the green light to go,” Justice said. “We hope we have wonderful Fourth of July celebrations for our birth.”
There will, however, be guidelines and his office will work with localities to help them plan.
Policing reform has been high on the national radar since the George Floyd killing, which Justice has called “murder” several times.
In the face of worldwide protests, the governor has acknowledged there are many aspects of American life that could use some improvement.
When asked how he planned to implement improvements in his own state, and its law enforcement, Justice said he doesn’t believe West Virginia police are capable of such actions.
In the instance he is made aware of wrongdoing, he said, he’ll address it — take for example the case of State Fire Commissioner Martin Hess who recently posted a photo of himself on social media wearing a T-shirt that read, “All lives splatter” above a depiction of a car running over several people. Beneath the drawing it read, “Nobody cares about your protest, keep your ass out of the road.”
Justice said he fired Hess as soon as he found out about it.
He didn’t offer any specific examples of reform or policy change within the state’s law enforcement, saying rather it was on everybody to cooperate in the effort.
“All of us working together to try to do better and better and better in everything we do, will just make us better,” he said.
On the financial front, Justice said there is now a plan in place for payroll reimbursement for cities and counties from CARES Act funds.
“This will begin the release of millions of dollars” that will go out next week, he said.
So far, they’ve received only 31 applications, while urging more to apply.
Given the enormous number of claims, there were bound to be a few people trying to take advantage of the situation, leading to some fraud concerns for WorkForce West Virginia.
According to Justice, the agency has received 19,000 fake claims, including 62 from a single individual.
If those claims were processed, the state would have sent out $14.4 million to bogus claimants, he said. And scrubbing out phony claims slows the process for people with true claims.
As previously reported, Week 7 of The Comeback begins Monday. Low-contact youth sports practices, including Little League, and WVSSAC-sanctioned school sports and band practices may begin. Adult sports facilities — indoor tennis and racquetball, outdoor basketball courts and such — may reopen.
On Wednesday, private and state park campgrounds will open to out-of-state visitors, with seven-day stay limitations.
Tuesday is Election Day, a state holiday, and Justice said there will be no press briefing that day.
“Please go out and vote,” he said.