West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice moved Monday to close bars in the state's largest college town and reimpose restrictions on large gatherings as coronavirus cases rise to record levels.
Justice, a Republican, ordered bars in Monongalia County to close at midnight for 10 days as the county, which includes West Virginia University, reports a quarter of the state's active virus cases, largely driven by people in their 20s.
The governor also reinstated a 25-person limit on crowd sizes throughout the state, effectively canceling fairs, concerts and festivals, though he said sporting events and swimming pools can continue to operate.
Justice last week said he was considering scaling back his reopening strategy after virus cases and several other metrics began to spike. On Monday, the state health department said West Virginia has the most virus active cases since the outbreak began. Total virus hospitalizations are at the highest level since May 1.
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“It’s no fun to close things and make mandatory masks and somewhat divide us and all those things but this is a no-fun time, and we’ve got to do the things that are absolutely going to be the prudent things for all West Virginians,” Justice told reporters Monday.
The governor has pleaded with residents to obey his mandatory face mask order and reiterated the call during his daily news conference, this time while showing images of a packed church service where worshipers were not wearing face coverings. Justice announced the mask directive last week but stopped short of imposing any penalties for noncompliance.
At least 96 people have died from the virus and more than 4,000 people have tested positive in West Virginia, according to state health officials.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.