It’s been three months since the state of West Virginia had COVID-19 restrictions in place for residents.
Since then, as case numbers have fluctuated, so have recommendations from health officials and rules at individual businesses and entities.
The state has gotten back to normal in some ways — gathering for concerts, festivals and football games. And in others, caution still wins out, with cancellations or by pivoting to virtual gatherings. The situation can be hard to predict, frustrating and even worrisome.
A sellout crowd of 60,022 watched West Virginia University take on Virginia Tech in Morgantown last weekend. That same night, in Huntington, more than 24,000 fans gathered at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Marshall’s game against East Carolina.
Given the division of opinions that has gripped the country in the 18 months Americans have been living through a pandemic, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are disagreements simmering over events that did, or did not, happen and the ramifications of those decisions.
Gazette-Mail reporter Phil Kabler quoted Gov. Jim Justice addressing the issue of packed football stadiums Wednesday during a COVID-19 news briefing.
“To say there’s no risk is ridiculous. There’s risk everywhere,” Justice said.
But, as of June 21, there no longer was a blanket policy telling West Virginians what they could and could not do with the threat of COVID-19 still looming. Like in so many other areas of their daily lives, they were tasked with weighing risk vs. reward as they planned summer activities and trips, made decisions about returning to offices or schools and were given the opportunity to once again be around other people.
“I don’t believe mandates would help us at all at this time,” Justice continued Wednesday, adding, “From the standpoint of shutting down our way of life, we don’t need to be doing that.”
On Monday, the city of Huntington announced that it had canceled the Oct. 4 Fire Prevention Parade over COVID-19 concerns. As of Thursday, planning was still underway for MU’s Homecoming Parade on Oct. 7.
There will be a Pumpkin Festival in Milton next month, but the downtown Huntington Chilifest has been called off for a second year.
Calling on Justice to once again standardize COVID-19 rules is a lost cause. Criticizing individual decisions to have or not have gatherings based on data that’s continuously evolving is futile.
The prospect this spring of a return to normalcy, once COVID-19 vaccines became available, ended up being short-lived. There have been disappointments over all the things West Virginians still can’t do. But they are the adults in the room now. West Virginians have to buck up and live with the situation they are in, while making the safe and responsible choices for themselves and their own families.