Coronavirus Updates

WV Schools may open September 8; dispute erupts over mask enforcement

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — At today’s daily briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced his target date for opening West Virginia schools is September 8th, three weeks later than the original start date. He says it will depend on how things develop between now and then.

“Now the biggest concerns I have today, are our schools,” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.

But then the topic turned to his mandatory mask order that went into effect Tuesday. James Elam was a security guard at the Sleep Inn in the community of Mink Shoals, just outside of Charleston. Elam says he was trying to get other hotel workers and guests to wear face masks but was told by management that he was not to do that. He calls it a clear violation of Justice’s Executive Order.

“So after going back and forth with management, for a few minutes and arguing with them over the order, I decided that this work environment was not a safe environment for me to be in,” said James Elam, a former security guard. “So I went home that night anticipating talking to the owner of the hotel, the next day. The next afternoon I was terminated.”

Hotel management disputes that, saying Elam’s sole job was to patrol the parking lot overnight, not mask enforcement.

General Manager Angela Harding issued a statement, saying, “His job was to patrol the lot. So the security guard got angry, he punched out and walked off the job. So he was not fired. he quit.”

Today the governor was asked a general question about people losing their jobs for non-compliance on masks.

“If in fact, we’re getting in situations where employers are doing the wrong thing,” Justice said. “Or getting into situations where people are threatening to be fired, and all this kind of stuff, then we’ve got to change that as well.”

Critics say the mandatory mask order may need fines and penalties to force people to comply.

“This whole dispute may get fought out in court. The former security guard is threatening to sue for wrongful terminations, and the hotel is threatening to sue him for what it calls, making false statements,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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