CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After promising Wednesday that he would announce a vaccination percentage that would need to be reached in order for him to end the state’s mask mandate, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice took a different approach Friday.
Following a recommendation from his medical experts, Justice announced that the mask order will end on June 20, which is the state’s 158th birthday, regardless of the vaccination percentage. The date is “set in stone,” Justice said.
Officials project that by June 20, 65% of those 12 and older, 75% of residents 50 and older and 85% of people 65 and above will have gotten at least one dose, Justice said. If those percentages aren’t met, it won’t affect the end of the mandate, the governor said, explaining “we’ll be close enough.” The state’s overall percentage of people with one dose currently sits at 44.5%, according to the DHHR’s coronavirus dashboard.
Justice urges the “hell nos,” those who haven’t gotten a shot due to inconvenience and those who’ve been listening to “boogey man tales,” to get their shots. The governor believes that a large percentage of those who are unvaccinated, will get shots if the vaccinations are made more convenient. He again encouraged grandparents and parents to get their children and grandchildren vaccinated.
Speaking to those who have not returned to work due to fear of COVID-19, Justice said: “get off your butt and go get vaccinated and then there isn’t any afraid.”
Looking to address mis-information about vaccinations, state health officials emphasized that there is no information that shows the vaccines cause any fertility issues. They also said that the vaccines cannot alter someone’s DNA.
When vaccines are approved to those 12 and above, state officials will be prepared to begin distributing shots to that age group by the next day, Ret. Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer said.
The state’s Everbridge system will no longer be used as a central vaccine registration system, instead relying on local health departments, clinics, pharmacies and doctors’ officers, officials said.
When asked by a reporter why he has been late to virtually all of his COVID-19 briefings, since they began in early 2020, Justice explained that today he was doing an interview with NewsMax, but did not offer an explanation for his previous lateness, simply saying that he had been at all of the briefings. He then suggested the reporter who asked the question was a “nothing” and a “gnat on a dinosaur.”