Justice considering closing Mon. County bars

Gov. Jim Justice threatened to close bars and eliminate indoor dining in Monongalia County early next week unless the COVID-19 numbers improve there.

The Monongalia County Health Department reported 246 active cases Friday, a number that has risen by more than 60 percent since July 1. Justice said the numbers aren’t good.

“If our numbers continue over the weekend in a negative way we’re going to have to move to shut down our bars and (in-dining) restaurants in Mon County,” Justice said at his coronavirus media briefing at the state capitol Friday.

Justice said he needs to see “real movement” in the numbers.

“Movement in our direction,” he said.

The Monongalia County Health Department statistics show more than half of the new positive cases are linked to residents between the ages of 20-29. Officials said an outbreak began a few weeks ago when people who were COVID-19 positive went to several bars. There area also cases linked to vacation travel.

Justice said he’s not going to let the situation get “out of control.”

“We know the situation and how critical the situation is,” he said.

Justice also expressed disappointment Friday about the statewide COVID-19 numbers with more than 1,000 active cases and a virus spread value (Rt) that now ranks as the top in the country. He said the numbers would head in the opposite directions if residents would follow his mandatory mask order for indoor public places.

“This is the only bullet that I’ve got right now,” he said. “The next available bullet is to shut our state back down. We need to understand that my executive order said mandatory.”

He said he’s considering limiting public gatherings across the state.

“We may need to go to a small number statewide,” Justice said.

Justice said the state needs to be “almost flawless” in its mask wearing.

“Eighty percent is what we surely have to have but we need to be 99.9,” he said.

The Monongalia County decision will come down to the numbers. Justice did thank the owners of some restaurants and bars in the Morgantown area that have voluntarily closed.

Justice said he realizes any decision he makes will impact WVU’s fall semester.

“We’ve gotta stop this and gotta stop this now or we’re not going to be able to end up with kids back at West Virginia University,” Justice said.