CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Kanawha County and the City of Charleston are challenging an emergency rule filed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health. The Bureau says the rule was created to provide consistency to retailers and assurance for purchasers by implementing uniform social distancing guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WV DHHR says the purpose of the emergency rule is to offer standard regulations for social distancing in retail spaces across all 55 West Virginia counties rather than on a county-by-county basis.
“This aligns with Governor Justice’s direction to us that we continue to do everything in DHHR’s power to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, while also keeping critical retail operations open and functioning in a safe manner for both the employees and the public,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.
This afternoon, the Kanawha County Commission challenged the rule saying the issuance of the rule changes the rules put into effect by Dr. Sherri Young of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and goes against her medical advice as she determined the safest environment would be for essential businesses to only have two people per 1,000 square feet in their establishments. The county says the Bureau for Public Health’s rule would allow for three people per 1,000 square feet in businesses whose sales are comprised of at least 80 percent grocery food products.
“This was as a result of a push by lobbyists for the WV Retailers Association and OMEGA. Kanawha County and the City of Charleston were also approached by these lobbyists and asked to change the rules promulgated by Dr. Sherri Young and declined their request for the safety of both the front-line employees of grocery stores and the public,” the commission says.
“The Emergency Legislative Rule issued today has great potential to cause a more rampant spread of this virus,” Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin says. “The Health Order put into place by Dr. Sherri Young limits the amount of exposure that the general public and our front-line workers receive.We must continue to focus on the best public health policies that protect our essential employees and the general public.”