Beginning at midnight, Saturday, Nov. 14, wearing masks and face coverings in indoor public spaces will be mandatory by virtue of a new executive order being signed by Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice said the order will be for anyone entering any public building or space even if social distancing can be achieved. The exceptions include children aged nine and under; those with breathing difficulties and respiratory conditions; and someone being alone in a room.

“This is an ultra mandatory requirement for all of our businesses,” Justice said. “Businesses need to step up and enforce this. If people refuse to comply, call the police. They can be arrested for obstruction of justice.”

Justice fielded questions about that comment. He said he was advised by legal counsel that violating an executive order can lead to obstruction charges. He added that businesses which do not enforce the order will be considered in violation as well.

“If you don’t step up right now and enforce it, you know what is next,” Justice warned business owners. “The next step is closures.”

In addition to the mask order, the governor will also be signing the following executive orders:

-- All winter sports (basketball, cheerleading, swimming, wrestling, etc.) will be stopped until Jan. 11. This includes any sports that have already begun. In addition to winter sports in schools, it extends to include midget, peewee, 4-H and buddy leagues and travel clubs. Fall sports will be allowed to complete their seasons;

-- All staff members at long-term care facilities and nursing homes must be tested two times each week;

-- All schools -- public and private -- will conduct remote learning from Thanksgiving until the following Thursday. This will allow for a seven-day incubation period for the virus related to possible exposure during holiday festivities; and

-- All spring band festivals will be cancelled and all concert band festivals for the rest of the year;

Because of the increasing threat of COVID-19, the governor encouraged all West Virginians to be tested. Justice said it is important to be tested specifically before Thanksgiving to avoid exposures among family members during Thanksgiving meals and gatherings.

As of midday (Friday, Nov. 13), West Virginia’s death count had risen to 565 with 13 deaths since the governor’s last briefing two days ago. There are 8,531 active cases in the state. Of those, 839 are hospitalized with 104 in intensive care units and 34 are on mechanical ventilators.

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