West Virginia opens many businesses to 100% capacity amid vaccination progress

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order Friday allowing many businesses to reopen at 100% capacity if they meet certain requirements, joining other states that eased restrictions amid declining case totals and growing progress in vaccinating the public.

The state will remove capacity limits for bars and restaurants, so long as the establishments seat all patrons and maintain social distancing between groups. Small businesses, retail stores, grocery stores, gyms, fitness centers and museums can also reopen at full capacity, according to Justice’s order.

The changes take effect at midnight local time. Social distancing and face masks are still required at all venues, according to Justice. West Virginia increased its social gathering limit to 100 people, up from 75 under previous guidelines.

“We do continue to expect you to wear these masks,” Justice said at a press conference. “You know, I’m not a fan of the masks either. But, at the same time, we know they’ve saved a lot of lives, and we know we’re too early in the game to let our guard down.”

More than 12% of West Virginia’s population has been vaccinated to date. The state’s number of daily active COVID-19 cases has decreased for 48 straight days, according to officials.

West Virginia was one of several states that eased pandemic-related restrictions.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster took executive action to rescind mask requirements at state buildings and restaurants. The state’s average daily case rate has dropped 72% since Jan. 11.

“Now that the majority of South Carolinians are eligible to receive the vaccine, and infections and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, state agency heads may safely bring back the last group of state employees working remotely,” McMaster said in a statement.

California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials have drawn widespread criticism over stringent COVID-19 guidelines, will allow outdoor sports stadiums, theme parks and concert venues to reopen beginning on April 1.

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Attendance at the venues will be limited based on California’s color-coded “tier” system, which tracks the severity of outbreaks by county. For counties in the most severe “purple” tier, no more than 100 people will be permitted to attend.

“With case rates and hospitalizations significantly lower, the arrival of three highly effective vaccines and targeted efforts aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities, California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible,” California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a statement.

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