Can the governor enforce the face mask requirement?

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – On Monday, Governor Justice ordered all West Virginians to wear a mask.

Some are concerned about the requirement being passed without legislative input.

“West Virginia has handled this issue with the coronavirus much better than many other states,” said Del. Brandon Steele. “At the same time, we have to be cognizant that we do not dispense the constitutional three branch form of government because we’re afraid.”

The state of emergency declared in march means justice can mandate the masks, but enforcing the order is a different issue.

“I think it’s not clear that it doesn’t make it a crime and it doesn’t have a sentence or anything like that,” said Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mauzy. “It just says that they can be arrested and I think that would be dangerous to just arrest someone with no idea of what happens next.”

In many ways, the mandate is community-enforced. The closest thing to enforcement are businesses that deny services to those without masks.

“If someone were to come into our office and we mandated that they had to wear a mask to come in, we’re allowed to refuse service to anyone,” said attorney Robert Dunlap. “If they don’t comply with that directive, they’re simply turned away and we can refuse service to anyone we want.”

If a disabled person cannot wear a mask, they can make a reasonable request for accommodation. If they are still refused service, they may be able to file a complaint with the state or local Human Rights Commission. In some instances, however, the business isn’t required to fulfill the request.

“A state or local agency or private business may not have to provide that reasonable accommodation of modifications would change the nature of that service, program, activity, good, service or facility,” said Kelly Elkins with the Mountain State Center for Independent Living.

In the majority of cases, it’s better to wear a mask than demand service from a business requiring a face covering.

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.