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Month Critical For Businesses

December is a critical month for many businesses. Retailers rely on holiday shoppers. Many restaurant and bar owners count on income from once-a-year parties and other social gatherings.

COVID-19 has made life more difficult for all of the above. Many people are leery of entering stores — though owners and managers are taking effective steps to keep their customers safe.

Government-mandated limits on crowd sizes, combined with social distancing requirements, have made traditional holiday dinners and parties difficult, often impossible, to hold. Limits on occupancy of restaurants and bars have hurt, too.

Now is the worst possible time of the year for additional limits on businesses. No doubt West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is aware of that.

Yet he is considering new restrictions, especially on bars and restaurants, in areas of the state hit hardest by COVID-19. Justice could announce such curbs as early as today.

“I am trying with all in me to not shut stuff down,” Justice said during his Monday press conference. But, he added, “I am trying to keep people alive.”

Tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars, perhaps aligning opening and closing times with those of adjoining states, are on the governor’s mind. Additional limits on such businesses could be ordered, too.

Justice has emphasized that if he does issue new business-related mandates, they will target counties where the COVID-19 surge is worst. Unfortunately, our region is in that category. On Tuesday, Ohio and Marshall counties were among seven in the state rated as red — with the most risk — on the state’s COVID-19 map. Brooke and Hancock were among 18 in the orange, still hazardous, classification.

We don’t envy the governor. To his enormous credit, he has resisted the kind of business shutdowns and draconian restrictions on people that have been ordered in some states. He seems to recognize that real people, not just “the economy,” suffer from “lockdowns.”

We encourage Justice to keep that firmly in mind as he struggles to save West Virginians’ lives. Many businesses are tottering on the edge of failure now. New curbs could be the death blow for some.

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