Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing Friday to update the public on the State’s latest pandemic response efforts.
During Friday’s briefing, Justice outlined the CDC’s recent announcement that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.
The Governor went on to announce that he would be signing an executive order to immediately modify West Virginia’s face covering requirement to follow the updated CDC guidance for fully vaccinated West Virginians.
“Our face covering requirement no longer applies to you if you are fully vaccinated,” Justice said.
The lifting of the face covering requirement only applies to those who have been fully vaccinated; meaning that at least two weeks have elapsed since the administration of a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or that at least two weeks have elapsed since the administration of a first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement is still in effect for all West Virginians who have not yet been fully vaccinated, and will remain in effect for these individuals until June 20, 2021.
Additionally, any private business or school system can still require individuals to wear a mask, regardless of the CDC’s new guidelines.
“It’s a great day, from the standpoint of us that are fully vaccinated, to be able to walk around and not worry about this crazy mask stuff, even though they have saved so many lives,” Justice said. “I don’t know if there’s a motivator out there that could possibly be any better for those that have not been vaccinated. For crying out loud, if you don’t like the masks, go get vaccinated as quickly as you can so you can share in this enjoyment.
“We have got to continue to work toward getting more and more folks vaccinated,” Justice said. “We’re going to continue to do that, and we’re on a pathway to have a whale of a celebration on June the 20th.”
As part of the Governor’s recently announced “Call to Arms” vaccine initiative, State COVID-19 pandemic response leaders have set goals of vaccinating 65% of all eligible West Virginians, 75% of West Virginians age 50 and older, and 85% of West Virginians age 65 and older with at least one dose by West Virginia’s 158th birthday on June 20, 2021; the same day that the Governor plans to lift the Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.
West Virginia to end participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs next month
Also on Friday, Justice announced that West Virginia will end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs, effec- tive June 19, 2021, at midnight.
“West Virginians have access to thousands of jobs right now,” Gov. Justice said. “We need everyone back to work. Our small businesses and West Virginia’s economy depend on it.”
This change includes the additional $300 weekly payment as well as benefits for self-employed.
Any weeks filed before June 19 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.
“We’ve got to have you back to work,” Gov. Justice said. “America is all about work. That’s what has made this great country. For us to not be back to work, if you’re just taking advantage of these programs, that time is over. It needs to end and we need to move forward.”
Vaccinations underway for children ages 12-15
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice announced that after the U.S. FDA and the U.S. CDC both authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children ages 12-15 earlier this week, West Virginia vaccine distribution officials have now begun administering vaccinations to children in this age range.
“We have 15 counties that are scheduled to hold clinics next week. The Department of Education estimates that there are 78,000 kids that are eligible in our schools,” Justice said. “We will offer vaccines to all students 12-15 years of age with permission of their guardians, and all of these will also offer vaccines to all eligible West Virginians as they come in, whether they be other students, parents, educators, whomever they may be.”