W.Va. closes college town’s bars amid rising virus cases

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Two days after bars around West Virginia University were allowed to reopen, Gov. Jim Justice shut them down indefinitely Wednesday, citing crowds of unmasked students and an increase in positive coronavirus cases.

“Please, kids, we have got to bear down here,” Justice said at a news conference. “You are absolutely running the risk of killing somebody.”

Photos circulating on social media showed lines of people without masks outside of Morgantown bars as some businesses advertised “Taco Tuesday” specials. WVU started classes last week.

In a letter Wednesday, WVU President Gordon Gee said of the student gatherings, “To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.”

He said students must make “the right choices” in order for the Morgantown campus to remain open during the pandemic.

“This is a critical moment for West Virginia University,” Gee said.

Justice initially ordered Monongalia County bars closed on July 13 and kept extending the order until allowing them to reopen on Monday.

“Right off the get-go, boom. We’ve got people standing on top of people,” Justice said. “We’ve got no masks, servers without masks.”

Monongalia County reported a total of 83 new positive cases Tuesday and Wednesday, its highest two-day counts since mid-July.

On Tuesday, West Virginia University reported 35 positive cases involving students, by far the highest total since a mandatory campus testing program began late last month. Justice said there are 29 positive cases involving campus fraternities and sororities.

According to state health statistics, 22% of all statewide positive cases are from the 20-to-29 age group, far more than any others.

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