Gov. Jim Justice ...

Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a virtual pandemic briefing Friday.

CHARLESTON — Restaurants will be able to seat up to 75 percent capacity starting this weekend, and next week all K-8th grade students can attend school five days a week.

Gov. Jim Justice announced these and other relaxations of COVID restrictions Friday morning during his pandemic briefing.

“Today, I am signing an Executive Order (effective at midnight tonight) to increase indoor capacity at restaurants to 75 percent occupancy,” he said, as long as social distancing is maintained between groups.

Bars can also increase seating capacity with social distancing and as long as people don’t stand and gather in groups. Masks must continue to be worn when not eating or drinking.

Retail store capacity is also increased, from two per 1,000 square feet to four. Grocery stores’ capacity has also been doubled. However, mask wearing and social distancing must continue.

“I truly believe that in the next very few weeks we will be able to move to 100 percent capacity in restaurants,” he said.

Social gatherings capacity has also changed, from the 25 limit to 75. These are gatherings for “purely social purposes,” he said, and masks must be worn and social distancing required.

Indoor live music can also resume, but with limitations on vocals and some instruments related to preventing spread.

Justice said that next week all teachers and school personnel 50 and over who chose to be vaccinated will have received their second dose.

“I am calling on the state Board of Education and all counties to bring back K-8th grade students to full time next week,” he said, adding that he can't require it, only recommend. "We need to back in school...The board of education is going to have to make that call."

Justice also said capacity at winter sports games can increase as long as occupancy is limited to allow for proper social distancing and masks must continue to be worn.

However, he also said if any virus surges return, previous restrictions in all areas may be reinstated.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

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