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SB Wednesday: why Gov. Jim Justice issued order for mandatory face masks in buildings

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(WVVA) BLUEFIELD, W.Va - WVVA is helping answer viewers' questions about small business loans, unemployment, taxes, businesses reopening and more.

John O'Neal, Exec. Director of the Mercer County Economic Development Authority, spoke about WV Gov. Jim Justice issuing an Executive Order mandating face coverings in West Virginia under some circumstances.

On Wednesday, O'Neal discussed the Governor's motives for issuing this Executive Order.

"Gov. Justice expressed his concerns about the rising number of reported positive tests for COVID 19 that have occurred in recent days. He acknowledged that there has been no increase in the fatality rate from the virus, or the average hospitalization rate statewide," said O'Neal.

"Some of that increase in positive tests is a reflection of an increase in the amount of testing. Most of the new cases are among younger, healthier people. Nevertheless, he wanted to take strong action now to slow the spread of the virus, hoping to protect the most vulnerable, and to avoid the necessity of a major shutdown again," said O'Neal.

O'Neal addressed how will this Face Covering Mandate will affect business owners in our region.

"The Face Covering Mandate applies only to public indoor places where social distancing cannot be maintained. Nearly all of the businesses in our region have already taken steps to provide some sort of social distancing. They have reduced occupancy in restaurants," said O'Neal.

"They have put lines in shopping aisles and checkout counters that allow for space. Some have installed plastic shields for dealing with customers. In those places that have adequate distancing in place, Face Coverings are not required. Although any business owner may require Face Coverings if they wish. Customers can then decide if they wish to shop there," said O'Neal.

O'Neal also addressed "are there exceptions to the Face Covering Mandate? And what are the consequences for noncompliance?"

"The Mandate does not apply to anyone under the age of nine, to anyone that has trouble breathing, or to anyone that needs assistance putting on or removing a mask," said O'Neal.

"Also, The Order states that existing legal restrictions forbidding face coverings to conceal identity in public settings will not be enforced.
There is no penalty for noncompliance with the Governor's Executive Order. The Governor has requested that all West Virginians voluntary comply," said O'Neal.

Viewers can see the Governor's Executive Order here.

O'Neal will be on WVVA at 9 a.m. Sunday for In Focus answering more questions about COVID-19 has impacted the national and local economies and more.

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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