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Justice says mask mandate can end on West Virginia Day

Gov. Jim Justice announced the state’s mask mandate will end on West Virginia Day, which is June 20.

“We’ll have a big celebration,” he said. “Wear your mask just a little while longer.”

By then, Justice said, state health advisers project 65 percent of all West Virginians 12 years of age and older will have been vaccinated.

The governor said that date will be targeted no matter how close West Virginia may be to achieving that percentage.

“I think it’s set in stone. We’ll be close enough,” he said.

But Justice said the state must make a sustained effort to vaccinate the population in the weeks ahead.

“We’re going to call this our call to arms,” Justice said.

Justice first called for a mask mandate on July 6. West Virginia had just hit record numbers for newly-confirmed virus cases.

The state’s covid-19 dashboard shows that 663,080 people out of West Virginia’s total 1.79 million population — 37 percent — are considered completely vaccinated.

And 796,765 residents — 44.5 percent of the total population — have received at least one dose.

The governor is talking about assuring 65 percent of the population eligible for vaccination — rather than the total population — receives shots.

Right now, residents aged 16 and older are eligible for vaccination. Federal and local officials believe that as soon as next week citizens ages 12 and up will receive authorization to be vaccinated.

Dr. Clay Marsh

The governor and his advisers have been focusing on improving the vaccination rate of younger West Virginians.

But they have taken some assurance from the vaccination rate of older residents. Seventy-two percent of residents 65 and older have been vaccinated, according to the state.

“We are once again calling on all West Virginians to help us reach these goals,” said Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response coordinator.

Dr. Sherri Young

Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, this week advised residents that covid-19 vaccines appear to be working.

Kanawha most recently totaled 560 active cases, down 24 from Wednesday. The county announced two recent deaths.

As the health department watches hospitalizations and covid-associated deaths, there are no indications that recent deaths in Kanawha County include anyone who was fully vaccinated against the virus.

“This is evidence that covid-19 vaccines are the key to ending this pandemic and keeping people safe,” Young said.

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