CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has given the green light to more entertainment businesses to reopen in the next two weeks.
Public pools (using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines), bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, pool halls and other indoor entertainment may reopen May 30. Movie theaters may reopen June 5.
Justice and his health officials continued to stress the importance of West Virginians wearing masks during his press briefing Thursday, the day a large number of different types of businesses reopened their doors to the public.
“The mask may be the key to everything,” he said.
Justice announced he has sent a “strike team” including members of the West Virginia National Guard to address the pandemic in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the Eastern Panhandle. The counties are now in “high alert status” under the new surveillance plan for the state. Over the past 24 hours, Jefferson County had 20 new cases, while Berkeley County had 15 new cases. Berkeley has the highest cumulative number of cases in the state.
These counties were among those with free testing last weekend.
Justice said he will decide how to proceed in those counties after the National Guard can assess the situation. Options could include scaling back what can reopen in those counties, slowing down reopenings or a stay-at-home order.
The governor said he could also mandate masks be worn to enter establishments, but he wasn’t sure what enforcement of such a mandate would look like.
He said recently learned knowledge of the effectiveness of wearing masks or face coverings is why he has doubled down on the importance recently. He said it is the best tool to ensure the state can avoid a second surge of the virus and it isn’t a “big ask.” The inconvenience is minuscule compared to the benefits, he said.
Two new deaths were reported Thursday — an 85-year-old woman from Kanawha County and a 73-year-old woman from Jackson County. The total number of fatalities related to COVID-19 is now 71.
There were 36 new positive cases reported out of 2,976 laboratory results received by the state Thursday, which brings the total to 1,603. The percentage of positive tests cumulatively was 1.9%.
Total confirmed cases by county are: Barbour (seven), Berkeley (251), Boone (nine), Braxton (two), Brooke (three), Cabell (56), Calhoun (two), Clay (two), Fayette (39), Gilmer (nine), Grant (six), Greenbrier (nine), Hampshire (13), Hancock (13), Hardy (34), Harrison (37), Jackson (135), Jefferson (132), Kanawha (203), Lewis (five), Lincoln (five), Logan (15), Marion (48), Marshall (27), Mason (15), McDowell (six), Mercer (13), Mineral (35), Mingo (three), Monongalia (119), Monroe (six), Morgan (17), Nicholas (nine), Ohio (38), Pendleton (five), Pleasants (two), Pocahontas (15), Preston (15), Putnam (31), Raleigh (14), Randolph (nine), Ritchie (one), Roane (eight), Summers (one), Taylor (eight), Tucker (four), Tyler (three), Upshur (six), Wayne (96), Wetzel (seven), Wirt (four), Wood (48) and Wyoming (three).
More businesses in Ohio were also given a restart date Thursday by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Miniature golf, batting cages and bowling alleys can resume May 26, as well as sports training.
Catering and banquet centers can reopen under similar guidelines as restaurants effective June 1. Guidelines include 6 feet between tables and no congregating. For the immediate future, crowd size will be limited to 300.
There were 731 new positive cases reported in Ohio on Thursday, bringing the total to 30,167, and 55 new deaths, for a total of 1,836. The Lawrence County Health Department reported one new positive case in the county, bringing its total to 28. All have recovered except the new case.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced more dates for businesses to reopen. Auctions can begin June 1. Some child care will open June 8, with the rest and day camps opening June 15. Horse shows can also resume June 8.
June 29 is the target date for reopening bars and raising group gathering limits to 50.
There were 135 new positive cases reported in Kentucky on Thursday, for a total of 8,286, and 10 new deaths, for a total of 386.
The CDC reported 1,551,095 total cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of Thursday, with 93,061 deaths related to the virus.