Eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations now includes all West Virginians age 16 or older, effective Monday.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the expansion during Monday’s state COVID-19 briefing, stating, “I encourage all West Virginians to take advantage of this opportunity and get vaccinated.”
Justice said residents age 65 and older who have not been vaccinated will continue to have priority for vaccination scheduling. He said that, to date, more than 220,000 senior West Virginians have had at least one dose of vaccine — roughly 70% of that age group — with about 150,000 fully vaccinated.
The governor said that, ideally, the goal is to have 100% participation, but he conceded that is unlikely.
“I know some are just going to be too stubborn or just convinced of the propaganda out there who are going to refuse to take their shot,” he said. “We need to get around 80%, and the only way we’re going to get there is for you to quit listening to this garbage out there.”
Also during Monday’s briefing:
- Justice announced that, barring a spike in cases, he will lift an executive order barring fairs and festivals around the state, effective May 1.
COVID-19 active cases, daily positivity rates, and hospitalizations have been ticking up somewhat since Justice issued an executive order March 5 lifting several COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing bars and restaurant indoor dining to resume at 100% of capacity.
Current daily positivity is up to 5.21%, with 5,600 active cases, up more than 400 from a week ago.
- Commenting on the disclosure that House Government Committee Chairman Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, had contracted COVID-19 and, according to Democrat legislators, had attended a “group dinner” prior to testing positive, the governor said, “You’ve got a lot of stubborn people from time to time, that’s just all there is to it, and, sometimes, the most stubborn get bit.”
Justice said the state will make COVID-19 testing available to legislators and legislative staff who might have been exposed to Steele.
As for enforcing mask wearing and other COVID-19 protocols in the Legislature, the governor said, “I don’t think we can run in and arrest people and haul them out for not wearing a mask or whatever, but it is the wrong, wrong thing to do.”
- Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said there has been some “disconnect” among the public as to where to sign up for vaccinations, as the federal government has begun providing vaccine doses directly to pharmaceutical chains, such as Walgreens, chains that are reserving vaccination slots independently of the state’s Everbridge system.
Crouch said that change has been the result of federal authorities pivoting to a more conventional vaccination model, similar to what is done for annual flu shots, where people go to their health care provider or pharmacy for their vaccinations.
“We want you to get a vaccination anywhere you can, as quickly as you can,” he said, suggesting that people may register with the state and with their pharmacy, and take whichever vaccination opportunity comes first.