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Business owners react to new mask mandate in West Virginia

Governor Justice issues mask mandate
Governor Justice issues mask mandate
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:43 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - COVID-19 has already made operating a businesses a challenge and a revamped mask mandate Friday from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice now becomes another piece of the puzzle.

“This is an ultra-mandatory requirement for all businesses,” said the governor during his news conference.

Masks are now going to be mandatory for everyone when indoors at a public building or in a business. The only exceptions, Justice said are children under the age of nine, people with breathing difficulties or anyone who is actively eating or drinking. If someone is non-compliant, it could bring criminal charges.

“It seems like we’re being penalized and we’re not the problem here,” said Joe Guilfoile, owner of Big Joe’s in downtown Charleston. “I don’t have people grinding on people, I don’t have people sliding next to each other, we’re separated, we’re sanitized, they’re not catching anything in here.”

Guilfoile said his customers already wear masks when appropriate and putting business owners in charge of enforcing the mandate is a bit unfair:

“All I can do is try to keep (my business) open and keep what employees I have, working and that’s the only goal right now," he said. “If it means we shut down again and we go back to takeout, I guess that’s the way we’ll go. What else can I do? I’m trying to get through this the best I can.”

Over at the Olive Tree in South Charleston, owner Michael Jarrouj said his customers also already wear masks when appropriate but the announcement wasn’t all that shocking to hear.

“I guess the only thing that’s going to change is there is a little more teeth in it now, if someone is a little more resistant or upset about it we’ve been instructed to call law enforcement and, of course, that’s not something we would ever want to do,” said Jarrouj.

Justice said if this new revamped measure doesn’t help bring case numbers down, he says a shutdown is on the horizon.

The mandate goes into effect at midnight Saturday.

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