WV Gov. Jim Justice says an order requiring face masks could divide the state during’s Tuesday COVID-19 briefing

Coronavirus

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice held his daily virtual news briefing on COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon, focusing mainly on reopening announcements he made on Monday, but it ended with a bang about unemployment benefits.

The last question Justice was asked surrounded if anything was being done to protect workers from losing unemployment benefits if they are called back to their jobs. The governor became quite animated, saying “let’s please stop the politics, please!” “We can’t send $600 million over here and $600 million over here, unless you wanna just do it and be bankrupt tomorrow,” Justice continued. You can hear his full response below:

On Monday, Justice announced that big box retail stores could reopen on Thursday, May 21. Today, Justice said state health officials are working with indoor malls and that they will open as soon as it is safe.

Also following up on his Monday announcement that non-contact youth sports may be able to resume on June 8, Justice said that the date will be pushed back if it becomes necessary to protect children.

When asked is he is considering an executive order mandating that people wear face masks, Gov. Justice said that he urges everyone to wear masks in public, but also said that he is not mandating that they be worn, explaining that he believes an order could divide state residents.

Gov. Justice again said that the state is still waiting to get federal guidance on how to spend stimulus funds and that state officials are asking cities and counties to submit costs and needs related to COVID-19.

Later in the day, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, issued a statement disagreeing with Gov. Justice’s decision to wait to start spending the federal funds:

“I disagree with the Governor, this is not political it is a matter of survival for all West Virginians. Simply put, the state of West Virginia has $1.25 billion in the bank that Congress allocated through the CARES Act. Governor Justice already has permission from President Trump’s Department of Treasury on how the state can use this money. The money can be used to pay for things that would help West Virginians right now like testing, personal protective equipment, sanitation efforts, homelessness, grants to small businesses, food delivery to seniors, expenses for our struggling rural hospitals or payroll expenses for employees responding to COVID-19 – just to name a few,” Senator Manchin said. “Beyond that, our municipalities and counties are facing tough decisions as they confront the very real possibility of cutting essential services West Virginians rely on, like trash pickup and emergency services, and laying off employees. Other rural states have received the same amount as West Virginia and have already taken steps to distribute the funds. There is no excuse for the state to sit on this money any longer. I urge Governor Justice to please distribute a share of this funding as soon as possible to West Virginians – they need help and they need it now. I will continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to make sure the state has the resources and flexibility we need to respond to this crisis.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV

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