Liz McCormick Published

Shepherdstown Town Council Urges Governor To Require Face Masks In W.Va.

Downtown Shepherdstown

A month after passing a resolution strongly encouraging Shepherdstown businesses to require face masks inside their establishments, the Shepherdstown Town Council is formally calling on Gov. Jim Justice to mandate face masks in public spaces across West Virginia.

The Shepherdstown Town Council on Tuesday passed the resolution requesting Justice make wearing masks a requirement.

Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer said during the meeting, held via the video conferencing app Zoom, that masks help limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to health officials. And he pointed to the governor’s frequent call for citizens to wear masks when out in public.

“It is divisive but maybe if [Justice] hears from constituents, about how we feel about that, maybe it’ll help him make a decision,” Auxer said. “If he really feels it’s important, then we’re helping him do that.”

Of the council members present on the Zoom call, only one member, Mark Everhart, spoke against the resolution, saying requiring masks goes too far.

While Justice has urged West Virginians to wear masks in public, he has not made it mandatory, and insists if he did so, it would cause division and tread on people’s freedoms.

In late May, the Shepherdstown Town Council passed a resolution that “strongly encourages” businesses in town to require face masks of their customers. The resolution was also accompanied by a letter from the Shepherdstown Police Department saying businesses have the option to get police involved if someone refuses to wear a mask and enters a business anyway. The person could be subject to a trespassing charge.

Some states in the country have mandated wearing masks in public places, such as Maryland, California, and some cities in Arizona, but largely, it is only a recommendation in the United States.

The Eastern Panhandle has consistently seen high numbers of positive coronavirus cases. Berkeley County has held the highest number of cases in the state for several weeks.

To-date, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has confirmed 440 positive cases of coronavirus in Berkeley County and 224 positive cases in Jefferson County.

As of Tuesday evening, DHHR has confirmed 2,905 total positive cases statewide and 93 deaths.