CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The announcement regarding the no-mask requirement at the start of the legislative session this week is sparking cause for concern from the attending lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin (D – Greenbrier).
He says that with the COVID-19 surge that’s affecting the whole state right now, the outcome of hundreds of people in the closed-in chambers at the Capitol may not be a good one.
“I just think we’re asking for trouble, I mean, it’s a bad situation right now all across West Virginia, hospitalization rates are way up, cases are way up, we’re dealing with a Delta surge still, we haven’t even gotten to the Omicron surge yet,” he says.
With the state now reaching just over 16,000 active COVID cases and recent variants breaking records due to high transmissibility and capacity to bypass the current vaccine, Baldwin says it’s extremely likely the coronavirus will be present at this week’s session.
“The docs have told us up until this point that if there are about 30-40 people in a room, then somebody’s got it, and we got a lot more than that in these small rooms so it’s going to be there. Life has to go on, we got to keep doing things, but the way that life can go on with the most normalcy is by taking precautions,” he says.
Baldwin says the big concern is when the session lets out on the weekend, creating the potential for the virus to unknowingly get spread to the lawmakers’ family’s and communities when they return home.
While it may not be a requirement, Baldwin is one of the several making the choice to wear a mask at the session in an effort to help alleviate at least some of the spread.
Masks were a requirement during last year’s legislative session, Gov. Justice has declined to reinstate the mask mandate after lifting one last summer when the number of statewide cases was down.