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Justice stiffens indoor mask guidelines, postpones WV schools winter sports

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Facing an ever-growing number of positive COVID-19 cases, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced Friday a series of executive actions he hopes will bring the virus back under control without closing businesses.

The first was an enhanced indoor mask mandate which goes into effect at midnight Saturday morning.

The governor said, “Beginning at midnight tonight I’m making it mandatory to wear masks at all times indoors.”

Justice says face coverings must be worn at all times in all public indoor places. The order does not apply to children under the age of nine or anyone who has trouble breathing or is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. It also requires that unless you are actively eating or consuming a meal or beverage you must wear a mask in the restaurant

Perhaps the most difficult aspect to enforce is requiring all businesses to post signs and ensure the masks are being worn at all times by patrons.

“I’m speaking directly to business owners,” said the Governor. “If you ask a patron to wear a mask and they totally refuse and try to enter your business they are obstructing justice. Call the local police. If you decide you are just not going to do that as an individual business then you are obstructing justice.”

Justice warned business owners that fail to comply with the enhanced mandate and continued increasing positive numbers he will have no other option than to start closing the state down again.

The governor also announced the postment of all winter sports in the public school system.

“From the standpoint of sports,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to support our athletic teams and we have had a commitment to sports because it is so important to our student-athletes.”

But, he continued “At this point, all of our winter sports – basketball, wrestling, swimming and cheerleading – are moving to January 11th. We’ll finish our fall sports and we’ll begin our winter sports on January 11th.”

“I know girls basketball has already started,” he said “it’s over. It’s over right now. These are indoor sports and I don’t know how we could possibly all them to continue.”

Justice is also shutting down public schools in all 55 counties during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We know families are going to come together for Thanksgiving and we know the probability of a spread is real. So I’m signing an executive order that from the Thursday of Thanksgiving until the next Thursday no one will go to school.”

West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch says the extended closure will not affect students in virtual learning. Burch also says all counties have plans in place for schools will go to remote learning for Monday through Wednesday following Thanksgiving.

The superintendent says they will also ensure meals will continue as though schools were in session.

Finally, the governor announced that all band festivals and all concert band festivals are canceled for the rest of the year. “The band masters made that recommendation to the State Board of Education and to me and it’s the right thing to do.”

This is a developing story, and we will continue to update it on WOWKTV.com, the WOWK 13 News App, and on 13 News on air.

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