West Virginia officially lowers vaccination age to 65; Gov. Justice discusses vaccine shortage during Tuesday press briefing on coronavirus

Coronavirus

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state has lost 82 more residents to coronavirus since Gov. Jim Justice’s last press briefing.

Justice lamented crossing another plateau as he listed off the deaths to begin Tuesday’s update.

“Eighteen hundred, a thousand, eight hundred great people have died.”

As for the state’s coronavirus figures, the state has a cumulative percent positivity of 5.50%, with a daily percent positivity of 6.24%.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 132,192 total first doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, with 24,181 people fully vaccinated. The percentage of second doses administered is 85.5%

“Today, now get this, today, our administration rate for first doses that we’ve received is 99.6%. Now, I don’t want to be like Clark Griswold’s dad was, that said there’s one line in the, the lights that aren’t twinkling, but if it’s 99.6, we need to take it to 100%,” Justice said, making reference to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Justice said the state is dealing with a vaccine shortage at this time.

“We expected an additional 25,000…we’re told we were going to get an additional 25,000 vaccines in, you know, yesterday or today, and they didn’t come,” said Justice.

“We have to have more vaccines because we can save lives, and we won’t leave ’em on a shelf.”

The state has plans to implement a new system for disseminating information and answering questions related to vaccines, along with scheduling appointments. Justice said this will alleviate problems residents have encountered, including waiting on the phone for extended periods of time while attempting to get information or to schedule a vaccination appointment.

West Virginia DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch touched on this new system.

“We are, uh, finalizing an agreement to, uh, provide a system, uh, to, to, uh, give us a system that allows registration online for individuals,” said Crouch. “Within the next few days, hopefully by the end of the week, we will be able to register you on—with that online call system, so that when you call in, we’ll be able to take your name and your information, and the system itself will communicate back to you, uh, at your preferred method, using your preferred method, whether that’s text, email or phone call, to let you know when the time comes for your vaccination. Uh, this system will also work at the local health department level and for individuals.

“Individuals will actually be able to go to the website, at some point here within the next week or two, and log on and register online yourself. We’re trying to reduce the calls. We’re trying to move quickly,” Crouch explained.

The governor also announced that the state has lowered the vaccination age to 65.

“The reason we’re doing that, primarily, is just this. The CDC is, is promoting to do that. We surely don’t want any obstacles in front of us to getting vaccines. In other words, if we stay at 70 or 75—and, I know we haven’t gotten all of our 80s or all of our 70s done. I got that, I mean for crying out loud—but, if we go, if we don’t go to 65, they may very well restrict the number of vaccines they send because they want us to be at 65,” Justice explained.

Community vaccination clinics for people 65 and older will be held in Cabell, Kanawha, Braxton, Logan, Wood, Greenbrier, Mercer, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Hancock, Marshall, Harrison, Monongalia, Randolph, Berkeley and Hardy counties.

WVU Medicine has announced that it will hold a vaccination clinic this week for Morgantown area residents. It will be held at the former Sears building at the Morgantown Mall. It will run on Thursday and Friday, and appointments are filling up, Justice stated. He also said WVU Medicine plans for this to be an ongoing clinic in the future.

There are 17 red counties in the state, including Preston, Doddridge and Ritchie counties. The state’s rate of transmission value is doing well, according to Justice.

“Our Rt number has moved down to .85. Remember, it’s supposed to be under 1. We’re at .85. That’s the lowest that I’ve seen, and it’s the very best in the entire nation.

“Just think, if we’re the best in the nation, and I’ve read to you 80-some names, 82 names, you know, and we got 1,815 that have died, think what’s really going on all across our land,” said Justice.

Tuesday marks the return to in-person school for students across the state, at least according to a mandate from the West Virginia Board of Education. However, the American Federation of Teachers announced plans to file an injunction in the matter, and some counties are seeking options to implement their own plans and eschew the state’s mandate.

The governor said the West Virginia Department of Education has heard from many parents who want to see their children return to the classroom.

“They’re calling like crazy to me, and everything else, saying, ‘We want to go back to school. That’s all there is to it. We want our, we want our kids back in school.’

“Masks are mandated for all students age 9 and above, and all teachers and employees will be wearing them, as well,” Justice added.

Not all students will be learning in the classroom, however. The governor said there are approximately 50,000 children who will remain in virtual learning.

Justice said his second inauguration is set for Friday at 1 p.m. He, along with other state officials, will be sworn in to their offices. It will not be open to the public, but it will be streamed online.

Dennis Davis
Dennis Davis

The governor on Tuesday also spoke on the recent loss of Cabinet Secretary Dennis Davis, who was with the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance.

“I had the real pleasure to, to appoint Dennis as a cab—cabinet secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance in January of 2017,” said Justice.

“Four years ago, and what an appointment. Absolutely…never one second of regret.”

Davis was an army veteran, and Justice said during Davis’ tenure, the state opened four regional veterans assistance offices, exempted military retirement income from the state income tax, added dozens of veteran transportation vans and dedicated monuments honoring veterans across the state, among other things.

“All these achievements, without question, would have never happened without Dennis Davis. That’s all there is to it. He had his hand in every single bit of this,” said Justice.

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