(The Center Square) – West Virginia’s fairs and festivals will receive a $1.3 million bailout after regulations forced them to cancel or significantly reduce capacity, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.
Fairs and festivals were initially meant to open during the state’s second phase, but in response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases two weeks ago, Justice reduced the capacity for social gatherings from 100 to 25, effectively shutting down most of those events. An event can only go on if it can keep its capacity at 25 and ensure that people are social distancing six feet away from each other.
Because fairs and festivals had initially planned to open up at a higher capacity during phase two, Justice said many of them have already spent money on down payments and planning costs. On top of that, he said fairs and festivals might need to return some of the $1.3 million allocated by the General Assembly if they do not hold any events this year.
Justice estimated that about half of the state’s fairs and festivals would be at risk of shutting down permanently, which necessitated a $1.3 million bailout for about 400 fairs and festivals in the state.
“We can’t have that happen,” Justice said.
Randall Reid-Smith, the commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, thanked Justice for providing the funds, which he said will help keep the arts going. He said fairs and festivals are essential for the development of the state’s communities and the economies of some of the smaller counties.
West Virginia has seen an uptick in daily cases this month after the state began to reopen its economy. In the most recent 13 days tallied, the state had at least 95 new cases each day and in the month of July, most days have had more than 100 new cases. Before July, the largest number of cases per day was 75.
The state has 1,702 active cases.
West Virginia has church-related outbreaks in eight different counties that have infected 137 people. Justice said churches are an easy place for a virus to spread, especially to the elderly. He urged people to wear face coverings, social distance and sit with an empty pew in between families.
Justice encouraged everyone in the state to follow guidelines for social distancing and face coverings to stop the upward trend in cases.
“For those of you that don’t like wearing a mask, just think of how uncomfortable it would be wearing a ventilator,” Justice said.