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Still no word on Mon bars reopening as county stays green for a week

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County has been green for a week on the state County Alert System map. With that in mind, The Dominion Post on Monday asked Gov. Jim Justice the status of reopening the bars, and if WVU and the business owners are involved in any conversations.

He didn’t name a time. “We’re having a bunch of conversations with them,” he said. “I’m very very hopeful of getting the bars back open. The bar owners have got to really, really enforce. … We don’t need a whole bunch of people piling in on top of one another.”

But he sees the flip side, he said. “There’s always two side to the razor blade.”

In this case, the other side is that if local bars are closed people will travel to other bars in other counties or neighboring states, where they risk exposure. “We try to take everything into consideration.”

Justice originally closed the bars July 13 and reopened them Sept. 1. But reports and social media pictures of unmasked students piled up outside bars and violating COVID-19 safety measures inside the bars led him to re-close them on Sept. 2. They’ve been closed since.

The closure order does not affect restaurants that also serve alcohol at bar areas, as long as patrons at the bars order food and don’t just drink.

Justice gave his promised update on live music performances. They are limited to outdoors only with crowd limits and masks required. The guidelines posted Monday afternoon also permit indoor performances without audiences for simulcast or other video broadcast.

On other matters, Justice fielded a question on the injunction the West Virginia Education Association filed Monday in Kanawha County Circuit Court that challenges the safety of the governor’s school re-entry map, along with other COVID-related suits in the system.

“It’s political and it sure smells of political,” he said. If the state used the more stringent Harvard map model, a third to a half of the schools would still be closed. And if there were no system at all in place, they’d all have opened sooner, with the associated health risks.

On the COVID numbers, daily lab tests have trended above 6,000 since Oct. 1 – heading toward the daily goal of at least 7,000. The death count has reached 361.

But the rate of spread continues downward. The Rt rate was .86 on Monday, second best in the nation. “Things are getting better,” Justice said.

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