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Gov. Jim Justice continued his push Thursday for West Virginia residents to go out and get vaccinated as the state nears the expiration of the mask mandate.

Gov. Jim Justice returned to the Capitol and spoke to the media on Thursday, further encouraging vaccination against the coronavirus as the mask mandate’s expiration nears.

Justice’s push was a bit more personal this time — he announced Wednesday that he had been recently exposed to COVID-19. He used his personal scare as a jumping off point on Thursday to encourage West Virginians to get vaccinated.

“You can stop this,” Justice said. “Everywhere you go, people that have been vaccinated, truly, the likelihood of them being infected with this is minuscule. The likelihood of them being hospitalized — almost zero. The likelihood of death of somebody that’s been vaccinated — super zero.”

Justice’s plea comes as West Virginia’s numbers continue to decline, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID-19 dashboard. The total number of active cases on Wednesday was 3,229, a drop of more than 600 cases over the past week.

The state continues to inch closer to Justice’s vaccination goal of 65%. Currently, 60.1% of West Virginians aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccination.

“I don’t care how hard-headed you are,” Justice said. “I don’t care of all the stuff you’ve got to do and how inconvenient that it may be. We have got to get you vaccinated.”

Justice also listed 26 deaths since Tuesday’s briefing, a combination of recent deaths as well as deaths from April and May. As of Thursday, West Virginia’s death total had climbed to 2,848.

“There was a time when there was a rating agency that said ‘We predict West Virginia’s going to have 74 deaths,’ and I sat there and said ‘Boy, I hope and pray we don’t get to that level,’” Justice said, later adding, “What I’d give to be 74. What all of us would give if it were just 74.”

Also during Tuesday’s briefing:

  • Justice highlighted the state’s upcoming Free Fishing Weekend, a two-day period in which people in the state can fish without a license.

“It is totally unbelievable what this great state has to offer,” Justice said.

  • Justice expressed his pleasure with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has said he would block changes to the filibuster and will vote against the For The People Act in recent days.

“I hope Joe continues to hold the line on what’s reasonable,” Justice said. “We all know that Washington has surely tilted so far to the left in many ways that it’s just totally ridiculous in lots and lots of ways.”

Reach Jared Serre at or on Twitter at @JaredSerre.

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