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West Virginia Gov. Justice announces target date to remove mask mandate

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - During a news conference Friday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced a target date for removing the mask mandate.

Justice says the goal is to lift the mandate on West Virginia’s 158th birthday - June 20.

Experts say by that time, they project 65 percent of West Virginians 12 to 35 years of age will have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. They also estimate that 75 percent of the population 50 and older will have received their first dose of the vaccine by that date and 85 percent of those 65 and older.

The governor says even if the estimated percentages are not met by June 20, the plan is still to proceed with lifting the mandate. He said Friday that the administration believes numbers will be “close enough.”

“If we’re five days from (June 20) and we hit these numbers, more power to us,” Justice said. “That would be absolutely wonderful news, and we can surely endure five more days and celebrate on our state’s birthday. If we don’t hit the date, and let’s just say we’re still trending great and all of that is working really well, and let’s say the percentages are really going to true up and come in line on July the second. We’re close enough.”

Governor Justice says they are calling this initiative “Call to Arms.”

The governor says 97 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 are West Virginians 50 years of age and older.

“We are focusing then on making sure West Virginia is a safe place to be,” COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said. “We are also calling on all of our younger West Virginians to serve the rest of our citizens by choosing to be vaccinated. That helps you live a more regular life, it helps all of us live a regular life, and gets us to the point when the masks come off we will all be safe.”

Also during the press conference, Justice says they are going to make some changes to the EverBridge system. He says it’s going to be used in a different way.

West Virginians won’t need to use the central registration process in EverBridge because vaccines are abundantly available now throughout the state. The system will be used for messaging, according to Retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer, who’s the director of the WV Joint InterAgency Task Force.

Hoyer says as soon as the Pfizer vaccine receives FDA approval for children 12- to 15-years-old, vaccinations will begin for that age group as soon as possible.

This is a developing story.

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