Dave Mistich Published

Gov. Justice Considering Closure Of Mon County Bars, Indoor Dining As Area Sees Spike In Virus Cases


Updated Friday, July 10, 2020 at 3:50 p.m.

Gov. Jim Justice says he is considering closing bars and indoor dining in Monongalia County as the Morgantown area experiences a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases. Justice said in a Friday virtual news briefing that closing some aspects of business in the county may be the only way to avoid another statewide shutdown. 

The governor pleaded with residents to heed an executive order issued this week to wear a mask to prevent the shutdown of businesses in Monongalia County, which could ultimately expand to affect businesses elsewhere.

“This is the only bullet that I’ve got right now,” Justice said of the potential of closing businesses in the county located in the North Central part of the state. “The next bullet that is available is [to] shut our state back down.”

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Friday morning update, there have been 3,882 total cases of the coronavirus across the state. The agency says 95 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

The state is also experiencing the highest R-naught value, or measurement of person to person spread, in the country with a value of 1.37. Such a number indicates that the virus is spreading rapidly and that every infected person is infecting an average of 1.37 other people.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the Monongalia County Health Department reported 456 total cases of the coronavirus. The county’s total number of cases has more than doubled in the past week. Free testing is taking place this weekend in Morgantown.

The governor said he is waiting on more information from his public health advisers and will make a decision after reviewing testing data that comes in over the weekend. 

“If our numbers continue over the weekend in a negative way, we’re going to have to move in Mon County to shut down our bars and restaurants or [indoor] dining, you know, in Mon County,” Justice said. “If they begin to — or if they flattened some — and they began to ease back, you know, Monday will be a big day.”

Many bars in restaurants in Morgantown have voluntarily closed over the past week after they said patrons and employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Justice said those voluntary closures will factor into his decision on whether or not to close down those types of services. 

“We’re trying to manage the risk. We know this disease and killer is right here, right now. We all know that,” Justice said. “And what are we trying to do [is] we’re trying to manage the economic aspect, the absolute emotional and mental and physical aspects of everything and manage the risk as best we possibly can. At the end of the day, all we’re doing is trying to get ourselves to the vaccine. That’s all we’re doing.”

Last Friday — and ahead of the Fourth of July weekend — Justice warned of an executive order that would mandate masks in buildings outside of homes. Following a statewide spike after the holiday weekend, Justice went through with the mandate but left its enforcement in the hands of business owners.

The virus’ impact on any holiday gatherings may still not be known, even with free testing taking place in Monongalia County this weekend. Epidemiologists and other public health experts have said that the incubation period for the new coronavirus can be 2 to 14 days.

Also Friday, Justice announced the appointment of Dr. Anye Amjad as the state’s new public health commissioner. Amjad, who specializes in internal medicine and preventative healthcare in Beckley, steps into the position more than two weeks after the ouster of Dr. Cathy Slemp. 

Amjad ran for U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 3rd District in 2018 as a Republican but came in sixth out of seven candidates in a May primary won by Carol Miller, who also went on to win the seat in the November general election.