3:00pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

Justice lifts mask mandate for fully-vaccinated West Virginians

Gov. Jim Justice announced today that he will lift a face coverings requirement for people who have been fully vaccinated.

“This is for those folks that are fully vaccinated, which means you have had both your shots, other than if you’ve taken Johnson & Johnson, and if you’ve had two weeks after the second shot,” Justice said.

The governor said the change would take the form of a revised executive order. He noted that the state’s mask mandate would still apply to those who are not fully vaccinated.

“Our face covering requirement will still apply to all those who have not been vaccinated until June 20,” Justice said. “You do not have a Constitutional right to not wear a mask.”

The governor’s announcement was in line with this week’s Centers for Disease Control & Prevention surprise change to its guidance on face coverings for the covid-19 pandemic.

“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC said in its updated guidance.

The change still comes with caution in some instances.

For example, people with compromised immune systems should talk to their doctors about continuing with precautions. And even fully vaccinated people may still be asked to wear masks in certain places, such as in hospitals or other health care settings, as well as when using public transportation.

At least eight states lifted mask mandates following the announcement of changed guidance. Those include Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Just last week, Governor Justice said the state’s mask mandate could end on West Virginia Day, which is June 20.

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

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,” the governor said a week ago.

West Virginia’s coronavirus dashboard shows that 38 percent of the total population — a broader group than just those above age 12 now eligible for vaccination — has been vaccinated. That’s 691,758 people out of the state’s 1.79 million population.

And 46.2 percent — or 828,482, have been administered at least one dose.

Dr. Clay Marsh

“If you are fully vaccinated and you are two weeks out from the last dose, you are very well protected,” said Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response coordinator.

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

The change in federal guidance was surprising but is a good sign, Marsh said.

“The CDC is following all the data they receive. They believe this was the right time to make the decision,” Marsh said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“It is an interesting turn of events. It should give people the level of confidence that vaccines do really work. And we want to make sure people who are fully vaccinated have access to the parts of their life that they enjoy.”

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