Governors weigh options as COVID cases continue to rise

Published: Dec. 6, 2020 at 9:07 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va., COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTAP) - With coronavirus cases continuing to rise, and a curfew in one state about to run out, governors again are weighing more restrictions on businesses and the general public.

West Virginia’s and Ohio’s governors discussed that possibility Friday, at briefings where they outlined procedures for distributing an anticipated vaccine.

But their comments included caution to the public that vaccine won’t be widely available for several months.

While reading the latest number of deaths that had occurred in the previous 48 hours, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said he doubted business and other public closings would have an effect on the virus spread.

“Somebody tell me how that is going to make an absolute, significant impact. And if it doesn’t make an impact, it’s going to make an impact on the other side of the ledger, and it’s going to hurt us on the other side.”

The “other side” the governor referred to is the state’s, and the nation’s economy, which took a hit during the spring with the mandatory closings of “non-essential” businesses, something from which the economy hasn’t fully recovered.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, in response to a reporter’s question, said he would discuss options later Friday with legislative leaders. A day earlier, the governor vetoed a bill approved by the state legislature placing limits on the ability of the state’s executive branch to issue emergency orders.

The governor went on to say he is having discussions with lawmakers and health experts as he considers his next step.

“We’re in discussions now, trying to get the best advice, the best experts, but we’re going to have to do more; we don’t have any choice.”

DeWine has received considerable pushback from state lawmakers, particularly those from his own Republican party, over closings issued at the start of the pandemic last March. Those orders were actually signed by his then-health director, who later resigned after getting criticism from lawmakers and people left jobless by the closings.

Late last month, the Ohio governor issued a curfew from 10 P.M. to 5 A.M., while at the same time, listening to restaurant owners concerned he might close dining rooms, as was done in March, amid daily increases in cases.

He also directed state agencies to monitor businesses and other public buildings for compliance with orders issued last summer to wear masks. He said Friday that has resulted in a 91% compliance rate. (Justice also tightened West Virginia’s mask order last month, leaving it up to law enforcement to enforce it. He has said, however, residents don’t have to fear being arrested for non-compliance, even having a public war of words with the state’s attorney general on the issue.)

The curfew DeWine ordered ends Thursday.

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