CHARLESTON — Fairs and festivals can resume on July 1 in West Virginia, but with restrictions.
Gov. Jim Justice made the announcement Thursday morning as well as increasing the limit of people at public gatherings from 25 to 100, effective at midnight last tonight.
“There will be very strict guidelines (for fairs and festivals),” he said. “They must be followed. We are trying to work it out where we have some level of relatively strict guidelines.”
Those guidelines will be available on his website today, he added.
“We may be able to reduce those restrictions as we go forward,” he said. “But for what we know right, these are the guidelines you have to … plan for.”
Justice said it will be up to individual localities and sponsors of fairs and festivals to decide if they can proceed with the event and stay within those guidelines.
They will decide if the event is a “go or no go,” he added.
He said any crowd, regardless of size, should continue to practice social distancing and use facial coverings.
On an issue that impacts Mercer County’s two Minor League baseball teams, Governor said he has been in contact with Major League Baseball and others.
“I am very confident to say Minor League Baseball will have multiple teams to play in West Virginia next season,” he said. “We are working on it.”
Justice was referring to the initial plan of MLB to end the Appalachian League after this season, eliminating the Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Ray from play. Because of the pandemic, the teams could not play this summer.
“Hopefully, all four of our Minor League teams will continue to be a part of our West Virginia communities,” he said. “They have assured us it surely looks like Minor League Baseball will continue to happen in West Virginia.”
Justice also said several agencies are working together, including the National Guard and Department of Education, to create an interactive map so residents, especially senior citizens, can find locations to get help with food or other needs.
Many senior centers are closed and summer youth camps have been canceled, he said, and he wants to make sure everyone who needs food can find it.
“This effort is unbelievable,” he said, pointing to “wonderful coordination between agencies. There are almost 600 sites ready to assist you with any help you may need.”
State Superintendent Dr. Clayton Burch was on hand at Justice’s briefing.
A “framework” for the reopening of schools across the state should be ready some time next week, he said.
“It’s way too early in June to say exactly what August will look like,” he said. “But modifications would be made as we follow the recommendations of the DHHR.”
Those modifications may include smaller classes, no large congregate feeding areas and extra sanitization.
“We will create an environment for our children that is absolutely safe,” he said, with the assumption the numbers regarding the pandemic will be at a place students can return to school in August.
Justice once again emphasized that as far as reopening the state and loosening restrictions, all counties are considered for those changes rather than the state as a whole.
“We are absolutely looking at that all the time,” he said. “It is something we may very well do.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com.