Week 3 of Gov. Jim Justice’s six-week plan to reopen many businesses and activities in West Virginia is going to be underwhelming, with just drive-in movie theaters and a limited number of fitness centers authorized to reopen beginning Monday.
That, according to state COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh, is intentional, as the Justice administration taps the brakes on efforts to bring West Virginia back online following the first peak of COVID-19 cases statewide.
During Tuesday’s state COVID-19 briefing, Marsh explained why the next round of re-openings is purposely being kept short.
“We have reduced the aggressiveness of some of the reopenings,” Marsh said of next week’s abbreviated list. “We’re going to see how things play out for a week or so.”
Marsh cited two states that saw upturns in coronavirus cases after restarting business activity: Texas, which had its highest two-day increase in positive cases over the weekend, and Georgia, where cases have shot up after that state effectively ended its lockdown.
“We know, as we start to go back out again, we have to be extra careful,” Marsh said, adding, “We should not think we are finished with the COVID pandemic.”
To that end, only drive-in movie theaters, which number fewer than a half-dozen in the state, and wellness centers operated by licensed health providers for physical and exercise therapy and post-op rehabilitation, will be able to reopen next week.
Marsh seemed to indicate Tuesday that the six-week timeline to bring West Virginia back online might need to be extended. He said it takes 10 days to two weeks to see the initial effects of reopenings on the numbers of COVID-19 cases, and twice that time to see the full effect.
“We want to make sure we’re giving enough time to see the real effect from a health and well-being standpoint,” said Marsh, who is vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University.
This week, Justice’s plan authorized reopening of nail and beauty salons, barber shops, nonretail businesses with fewer than 10 employees, outdoor dining at restaurants, and church and funeral services, among others.
On the list, but still awaiting the go-ahead to reopen, are a large number of businesses and activities, including office and government buildings, specialty retail, dine-in restaurants, hotels and casinos.
Justice’s plan has no specific dates for resuming activities that bring groups of people together, including at movie theaters, concerts and sporting events.
He said Tuesday he would like to shoot for a June 1 date to resume Little League baseball and other youth sports, but he added that the date is not definite.