CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY)- During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, after consulting with State medical experts regarding vaccination rates, the Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement will be lifted on the State’s 158th birthday –also known as West Virginia Day – Sunday, June 20.
“We believe that all West Virginians 12 years of age and older will be eligible to take the vaccine soon, and by June 20th, we project that 65% of all eligible West Virginians will have the first dose at that point in time, 75% of our population that’s 50 and above will have the first dose at that time, and 85% of our population that’s 65 and above will also have the first shot at that time,” Gov. Justice said. “So that’s the date we’re going to go with. It just coincides perfectly with the celebration of this absolutely incredible State on its birthday.”
“Naturally, it will still be your choice, when you’re in public, whether you want to have a mask on or not,” Gov. Justice continued. “But the mandate will be lifted.”
In the run up to that date, the State is beginning another push to get more West Virginians vaccinated.
“We’re going to call this our ‘Call to Arms’ initiative,” Gov. Justice said. “We need the arms to put shots into. So this is West Virginia’s ‘Call to Arms,’ and we’re going to absolutely target and achieve these things, but we need your help.”
Gov. Justice went on to say that, as part of the initiative, he is once again asking West Virginians who have already been vaccinated to ask their loved ones to be vaccinated as well, especially younger West Virginians ages 16-35 years old.
“In our ‘Call to Arms’ program, we are, once again, calling on all West Virginians to help us reach these goals of the percent of our population vaccinated with at least one shot,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, State Coronavirus Czar. “When you look across the world and look at the countries that are doing the best job of immunizing, particularly Israel, they saw a huge beneficial point of inflection when they got to 60% of their population vaccinated.
“As we target 65% of our vaccine-eligible population with at least one shot, 75% of our over 50-year-old population who’s vaccine eligible with at least one shot, and then 85% of our over 65-year-old population with at least one shot, we believe that we will then have the ability to safely to be able to remove the mask mandate,” Dr. Marsh continued. “So it is very important that we all pull the rope together…We have done very well. We’ve been a beacon for the country, and we’ll have one heck of a celebration ready to go on June 20th where, once again, we celebrate our caring and service to each other and to this great state.”
Once again on Friday, Gov. Justice and State pandemic response leaders offered a reminder that West Virginia stands ready to hold vaccination clinics at schools in all 55 counties across the state as soon as the U.S. FDA and CDC authorize use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15.
Authorization is anticipated within the next week.
The West Virginia Department of Education estimates that there are 78,000 students ages 12-15 who are eligible for the vaccine in the state’s K-12 schools.
“As soon as 12-to-15-year-olds are eligible for the vaccine, we will start that day or the next day with delivery,” said West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer. “We are going to open up at the Governor’s direction to make sure that, when we do clinics in schools, they are available to not just the 12-to-15-year-olds, but also to entire families who still may have not gotten the vaccine.”
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced that, with vaccine supply outweighing demand, and with the vaccine now available from the federal government at hundreds of locations across West Virginia, the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Registration System will be phased out over the next week.
“It has absolutely been an incredibly successful tool for us,” Gov. Justice said. “It has served us well. But now, we don’t need to continue going through the same registration process.”
The COVID-19 Vaccine Registration System, announced on Jan. 25, 2021, allowed state vaccination organizers to immediately begin taking pre-registrations while waiting for the vaccine supply to increase.
As a result, West Virginia’s vaccination rates were among America’s best in the critical first weeks of nationwide vaccine distribution.
“What we, as a pandemic leadership team, have recommended to the Governor is we no longer have to use the central registration process, because we have vaccines abundantly available across different methods, whether it’s pharmacies, health clinics, and now we are entering into efforts with primary care providers,” Hoyer said. “We will continue to use the system for messaging as we continue to press out the notices to get the vaccines.”
On Tuesday this week, all individuals registered in the system were sent a message encouraging them to call the COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line (1-833-734-0965) to schedule a vaccination if they or a family member have not already done so.