CHARLESTON, W.Va. – During Wednesday’s virtual COVID-19 briefing, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice promised, during Friday’s briefing, to announce a percentage of vaccinated state residents that will need to be met for him to end the state’s mask mandate. That percentage will be based on recommendations from state health experts, Justice said.
“I want our experts to give me a number, to give me a number that they would be comfortable, comfortable with the, the mandatory masks in our public buildings. Give me a number. Give me a percentage that they would be absolutely comfortable that we could, we could back off the masks in our public buildings, and everything,” said Justice.
On the topic of percentages, Justice announced that 79.4% of state residents aged 65 and older have had at lest one shot.
The governor described a vaccine effort, where text messages, emails and automated phone calls were sent to everyone registered in the Everbridge system. Following the outreach, so far 973 people have returned calls to the state, Justice said.
With news that the FDA will soon approve Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12, Gov. Justice said the state will be prepared to offer vaccine clinics at all schools in the state that serve kids 12 and above. State education officials believe the expansion will add 78,000 students to the number of vaccine-eligible state residents.
State School Superintendent Clayton Burch shared a quote from a student he talked with: “If you don’t want your senior year to suck, get vaccinated,” the student encouraged others.
Justice was asked about a goal from the Biden administration to get 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4.
“If the Biden administration is targeting July the 4th, well, we want to beat ’em to that. We want to beat ’em to that cause West Virginia wants to lead, and we want to beat, beat, beat anything that is coming, from a national perspective,” Justice said.
Justice also announced a partnership with the West Virginia Broadcasters Association* (WVBA), whose members will be running public service announcements, on TV and radio, encouraging state residents to get vaccinated.
“I can’t thank the broadcasters enough, you know, you wield such a strong stick, and, and you’re so, so, so important, and stepping up like this is, I mean, it’s really meaningful,” said Justice. “The good Lord only knows, you know, the number of lives that you’ll save. And, I don’t know if that’s one, or a hundred or a thousand, you know, but it’s substantial.”
The governor also mentioned a visit he made Tuesday to Randolph County to present a $3.3 million Abandoned Mine Lands grants to the Town of Coalton to improve its water system. Justice noted that all of those in attendance at the ceremony were wearing masks.
Wednesday’s briefing was originally scheduled for 2 p.m., but was moved to 1 p.m. and then noon. It did not end up starting until 1 p.m.
The timing of Wednesday’s briefing, and the governor’s tardiness, were brought up during media questions. When asked why he was so late without any explanation or apology, Justice responded, “I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about.”
Further, Justice said the briefing would be held at 1 p.m. and suggested the possibility of someone on his communications team making a mistake in telling media outlets what time it would begin.
“I promise ya, if, if I’da rolled in an hour late, and everything, I would have, uh, I would have been the first to have told you that, uh, and offered up the apology,” said Justice.
*WBOY is a member of the WVBA.