CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials Monday for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
Gov. Justice announced Monday that he signed Executive Order 12-21, clarifying which previous executive orders pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic remain in effect and which do not, while also updating certain regulations
“Throughout the past year, I have signed a total of 91 executive orders to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Justice said during his COVID-19 briefing on Monday. “These orders were absolutely necessary to keep our people safe, keep our businesses afloat, and keep us on the right track to beat this virus. As a result, we have led the nation over and over. But, it can be confusing for the public to keep track of all the different orders.
“So today, I am signing a new executive order that’s cleaning up and doing away with a great, great many of the executive orders that have been in place,” Gov. Justice continued. “There was a lot of stuff that was very valuable when we put it in that has now outlived its time, and now it’s time to move forward.”
As part of his executive order, Gov. Justice announced that he has removed the limitation on the number of people permitted to gather for purely social purposes.
The Governor also announced that his executive order adds an additional exemption to the Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement so that, if you are actively engaged in physical activity like indoor sports, you do not need to wear a face covering.
“This order will also reinstate some requirements for unemployment benefits that we waived early on during the pandemic,” Gov. Justice said. “We need to put these requirements back so we can get back to work.
“I am also leaving in place the requirement that all healthcare facilities and providers in our state remain vigilant with plans for surge capacity and PPE in case we ever need it again,” Gov. Justice continued, adding that several additional orders suspending regulations to make access to health care, business licensure, and other aspects of life easier will also remain in effect.
Additionally Monday, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch took time during his remarks to remind West Virginians of the importance of mental health, with the COVID-19 pandemic now in its 14th month.
“This is a difficult time for everyone,” Sec. Crouch said. “It is crucial that we take care of our mental health and help our family and our friends with regard to mental health. Physical distancing does not mean we stop supporting each other. Reach out to family, friends, and loved ones and check in; make sure they’re all right.”
“Providing social support and making connections is especially important in addressing the feelings of isolation that many people have had during this pandemic,” Sec. Crouch continued. “Talk to your healthcare provider about your mental health concerns, especially if you are experiencing acute stress that is getting in the way of daily activities several days in a row.”
West Virginians can call or text 1-877-HELP-304 (1-877-435-7304) or chat online at www.HELP304.com to receive free help from trained crisis counselors who can listen to concerns, help sort out emotions, and provide connections to community resources.
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia has now successfully administered 1,162,079 vaccine doses after receiving a total allotment of 1,352,250 doses from the federal government to date; an overall administration rate of 85.9%.
To date, 681,790 West Virginians have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 508,089 West Virginians have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccinations are now available to all West Virginians age 16 and older. However, West Virginians who are age 65 and older will continue to be prioritized first until all state residents in this age range who desire the vaccine have been vaccinated.
To date, a total of 476,720 vaccine doses have been administered to West Virginians age 65 and older.
At the Governor’s direction, the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) has established three fixed-location vaccination clinics in Berkeley, Kanawha, and Monongalia counties to ensure that every West Virginian age 65 and older has access to a vaccine.
All West Virginians age 65 and older are urged to pre-register for an appointment by visiting vaccinate.wv.gov or calling the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gov. Justice provided a reminder that his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement remains in effect.
All West Virginians age 9 and older are to wear a face covering at all times inside all indoor public places, regardless of whether or not they are able to maintain proper social distance. The order requires that all businesses and organizations that invite the public into their facilities must post adequate signage advising guests of the requirement and are also responsible for enforcing the requirement to ensure it is being followed.
Additionally Monday, Gov. Justice once again encouraged all West Virginians to consider donating blood and plasma through the American Red Cross.
Those fully recovered from a verified COVID-19 diagnosis may have plasma in their blood containing COVID-19 antibodies that can attack this virus. This plasma may be able to be used as a treatment for currently ill COVID-19 patients.
For more information, visit redcross.org or call the local American Red Cross offices at (304) 340-3650.