CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “There’s going to be more and more and more people that die, until we really aggressively get more people vaccinated,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said at the outset of Monday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing. “There is no pathway out of this other than to be vaccinated,” Justice continued.

Of patients hospitalized, in West Virginia with COVID-19, 82% are unvaccinated, as were more than 74% of people who’ve died from COVID in the last 60 days, the governor reported. Some hospitals in the state are cutting back the number of elective surgeries due to an increase in COVID hospitalizations, Ret. Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer said.

State officials are still trying to get federal permission to give third booster shots to the state’s older residents, Justice said. The state is ready to administer the shots as soon as permission is received, he said.

He is still not prepared to issue any statewide mandates related to COVID-19, Justice said. “The absolute no-brainer is get vaccinated,” instead of arguing about masks, said Justice.

The governor also has no plans to call a special legislative session for state legislators to vote on bans on vaccination or mask mandates. Justice is trying to not “prompt more division,” he said, suggesting instead that state legislators should go get vaccinated.

After switching, several months ago, to updates on weekdays only, DHHR officials have now announced the state’s dashboard will again be updated seven days a week. The dashboard, also now includes a tab for “breakthrough” cases of COVID. It shows that since vaccinations became available, there were 5,056 breakthrough cases out of 188,660.

Gov. Justice also announced a new program that offers $150 school vouchers to “grandfamilies” if their grandparents and the kids they are raising are vaccinated. Registration for the program will start on Sept. 7. There are 19,000 children in West Virginia who are being raised by their grandparents, Justice said.