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What Could Happen to Businesses if a COVID-19 Surge Causes Closures This Winter?

As West Virginia heads into a winter of uncertainty, many business owners are wondering what might happen if COVID-19 cases increase so sharply that some version of the state’s original stay-at-home order needs to be re-implemented.

The stay-at-home order took effect on March 24, soon after the state saw its first handful of coronavirus infections. The order deemed as essential approximately two dozen types of businesses that were allowed to remain open. Those businesses include educational, childcare, healthcare, transportation, food and pharmaceutical providers, along with certain financial, manufacturing and supply industries.

On May 4, a “safer-at-home” order was issued that relaxed parts of the original order by allowing small businesses to operate if they had 10 or fewer employees and could limit customer contact. It also allowed restaurants to open for outdoor service in addition to takeout and delivery. Barbershops and salons were also allowed to reopen, as were churches. The safer-at-home order is still effective as of this writing.

West Virginia’s coronavirus caseload remained relatively light throughout the summer, but late summer and fall brought more daily cases. There were more than 100 cases nearly every day in September and October, and early November reports have recorded instances of more than 400 confirmed cases per day.

This uptick has caused worry about what might happen this winter. The best way to slow down the virus is to keep your distance from others and to be outside as much as possible when you are around others, which becomes harder when the weather gets cold. On top of that, this will be our first winter dealing with this virus, and no one quite knows how the colder weather will affect the virus itself. People can be more prone to flu and other illnesses in the winter, which can increase the severity of a coronavirus infection.

It likely would take a very sharp spike in COVID-19 cases for Governor Jim Justice to reinstate the full stay-at-home order and its accompanying business shutdowns. The governor and his administration are strongly pro-business and did their best to keep the initial shutdown as short as possible. If another shutdown does become necessary, perhaps the list of essential businesses would be expanded to allow more companies to continue operating.

At Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, PLLC, we are learning along with all of you. In the meantime, our attorneys are available to advise West Virginia businesses and local leaders on issues related to COVID-19. Schedule a consultation by calling 304-344-0100 or contact us online. We have offices in Charleston, Morgantown, Beckley and Martinsburg.

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