Nearly three years after declaring a state of emergency, Governor Jim Justice has signed a proclamation that will end emergency rules related to COVID-19, effective January 1, 2023.
The governor declared a state of emergency March 16, 2020, and the state reported its first positive COVID-19 case on March 17.
Little notice or publicity was given to the proclamation that was signed November 12, 2022.
“There was no reason to make a big announcement on this, no reason to get on a soap box and turn this into a political situation,” Justice said last week during a COVID-19 briefing.
He added that the state will still receive the federal rescue funds that it has been allotted.
“The only things that have been in effect and will remain in effect through the end of the year, are things that we’ve put in place to help healthcare workers,” Chief of Staff Brian Abraham said.
COVID-19 vaccines will still be available at pharmacies and county health departments, and the state’s pandemic response Joint Interagency Task Force will remain in operation.
“There is still work to be done, but the time for the emergency response has ended,” the proclamation says.
“Certain challenges resulting from the pandemic surely remain, but the time for emergency response has ended and the time for all parties to come together, to pull the rope together, and to overcome these remaining challenges together under non-emergency processes is upon us.”
Under the declaration, all emergency rules put in place and all related executive orders will be lifted as of January 1, 2023.
The Federal COVID-19 Emergency Order remains in place.
According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, more than 616,000 positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state since March 2020. There have been 7,600 virus-related deaths, including 34 in Pocahontas County.