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Justice: Mon County bar closure order likely to remain in place come Friday

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County bars will likely not reopen on Friday. “All indicators right now are that we’re going to have to extend that closure,” Gov. Jim Justice said Monday in answer to a question from The Dominion Post.

Justice’s 10-day Mon County bar closure order went into effect July 14 and is set to expire at midnight Thursday. The Dominion Post aked if he would hold off on his decision until Thursday.

“We’ll hold off as long as we can,” he said. “But we’ll try to give the bar owners as much notice as we possibly can.”

Mon County had 399 active COVID-19 cases Monday morning, up nine from Friday’s count of 390, but still the highest in the state, according to Department of Health and Human Resources numbers.

“We’ve still got a ways to go to get out of this mess and we don’t need to bounce right back in it,” Justice said. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to continue to keep doing things as close to normal as we can. … In Mon county we’ve still got a potful of a problem.”

Numbers have improved statewide since Friday, which saw 170 new cases. That fell to 116 Saturday, 89 Sunday and 67 Monday. But neighbor Kentucky, Justice pointed out, had 979 new positives on Sunday, and it had been tracking closest to West Virginia of all our neighbors.

He called that “alarming.” When we have 100 positives, “we react and we try to get out ahead of it.”

The key, he said several times, is wearing masks. At one point, he held up a mask. “We fight the battles with what we can fight with. Today we fight with this. Tomorrow we may have to fihgt with something else, but today we fight with this.”

Masks were crucial, he said, in preventing an outbreak when the House Health Committee met last week in the House chamber and one of the staff members subsequently tested positive. COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad both confirmed that there were no additional positives and that masks played a role – the staff member who got sick was masked, as were virtually all the others there.

Not everyone is apparently wearing masks, though. Justice said there are seven church outbreaks in seven counties: Boone, Grant, Logan, Kanawha, Raleigh,Taylor and Wood. There are 75 total cases, and Amjad said the numbers range from five to eight cases per church.

Justice commented, “The church setting is the ideal setting to spread this virus.” Social distancing, keeping a pew or row between attendees and, most important, masks are crucial.

“You have got to wear a mask in church. I know that’s hard to do … but for right now that has to be done. Because if we don’t all we’re going to do is perpetuate this terrible killer.”

Last week, Justice and Marsh tried to do some myth-busting, addressing the widespread social media assertion that COVID-19’s death rate is less than 1%. The topic came up again Monday through a reporter who suggested Justice and his friend, President Trump, are at odds on the numbers; Trump regualarly asserts that 99.7% of COVID-19 sufferers recover.

Justice responded, “I have no right to set the president of the United States straight on anything.” He suggested Trump is using a different metric and then passed the ball to Marsh.

Marsh repeated that the U.S. COVID-19 death rate is 3.8% and the global rate is 4.2%. But what Trump may be doing is viewing the numbers through a different filter: people who acquire the virus but have no accompanying conditions and die specifically and exclusively from COVID. Through that lens, the mortality rate would drop.”Different people can look at the same information and come up with different ways to look at it.”

With universities and colleges set to reopen in August, Justice said he’ll be having a third discussion on Tuesday regarding public and private colleges and expects to have more information. “All of us want ot see our kids back on campus and see our kids back in school.”

He repeated that he will mandate that every student coming in from out of state will be tested for COVID-19. Beyond that, he said various schools have various plans and he didn’t have any additional specifics at the moment.

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