Charleston, WV- (LOOTPRESS) Governor Justice handed down several executive orders on Friday regarding the continuing State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 virus. The orders included an “ultra-mandatory” mask mandate in all businesses, the cancellation of school the week following the Thanksgiving break, and the suspension of sports activities until January in schools.
The Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement handed down by the Governor:
- requires a face covering to be worn at all times in public indoor places,
- does not apply to children under the age of 9 or anyone who has trouble breathing or otherwise is unable to remove the mask without assistance,
- Does not apply when you are at a restaurant and actively consuming food or drink, or in a closed room by yourself,
- All businesses must post signs and ensure the requirement is being followed,
- The requirements take effect on Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 12 am.
The Governor declared that any business that did not enforce the indoor mask requirement would face the revocation of their business license. Justice warned, “To our business owners, I am telling you straight up, the next thing that follows this is you know what and that is the shutting down of businesses.” The Governor also threatened the arrest of citizens that were in businesses that refused to wear masks.
As for the closing of schools the week following Thanksgiving, Justice clarified that schools would remain closed through the following Thursday to allow for discovery of potential spread of COVID-19 following family holiday gatherings prior to children being sent back to school. Children would still be required to engage in virtual learning during the additional week of school closings. The Governor did not address the reason the children were being sent back to the classroom on a Friday rather than the following Monday.
Justice also hinted that it was possible that the plan would be revised to extend the school closures through the Christmas holiday. It is anticipated that Justice will make a decision regarding further closures sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday.
In another major move, the Governor ordered a halt to all winter sports until January. While winter sports will be delayed, the Governor has allowed for fall sports to finish their seasons in the coming days.
While the Governor was flanked by Major General James Hoyer and State School Superintendent Clayton Burch, no member of the legislature appeared to be present. It is unclear if Justice consulted with the House or Senate leadership prior to handing down the new orders on Friday.
Lootpress spoke with Delegate Jeff Pack (R) who said, “I am unclear where the Governor is deriving the authority to create law. The legislature has the sole authority to create law. It is the Governor’s responsibility to enforce valid law enacted by the legislature.”
Delegate Brandon Steele (R) told Lootpress that “the Governor is again exceeding his authority. He has no power to create law. He is violating his duty to faithfully execute the laws of this State. His continued usurpation of the Legislature’s role of creating and enacting law is unconstitutional and must be stopped. Every member of the legislature needs to call us back into session now. He is now creating confusion and chaos by seeking to utilize local police departments to enforce his unconstitutional orders. It is illegal and dangerous.”
Delegate Mick Bates (D) of Beckley told Lootpress “Less than 48 hours ago the Governor said ‘I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve given everything I have. I don’t know what else I can do.’ Today, late on a Friday, he announces executive orders that go into effect at midnight that are inconsistent, incoherent, and inconsiderate of those that are trying to live and work in the real world. It is no way to lead and most likely too late to make a meaningful impact on the mistakes that have been already made.”
Many members of the legislature have questioned the validity of the state of emergency, which has been ongoing since March of 2020. Earlier in the year 60 members of the House of Delegates called for a special session to curtail the Governor’s executive orders, but the Senate refused to call itself into session. It is unclear whether more legislators will call for a special session given the Governor’s increasingly restrictive orders.
The Governor’s newest orders can be reviewed at https://governor.wv.gov/Pages/Statewide-Indoor-Face-Covering-Requirement.aspx.
The executive orders go into effect at 12:00 AM on Saturday, November 14, 2020.