CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice on Monday called on West Virginians to encourage their friends and neighbors to register for COVID-19 vaccinations, as the number of counties lagging in registrations has grown to 10.
“You cannot possibly be so stubborn as to not get your vaccination,” Justice said during Monday’s state COVID-19 briefing.
Last week, state COVID-19 interagency task force director James Hoyer said registrations were lagging in six heavily rural counties — Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Grant, Gilmer and Monroe — possibly because of lack of internet or cellphone service needed to register at the statewide vaccinate.wv.gov website. He pointed out it is also possible to register by telephone by calling 1-833-734-0965.
On Monday, Justice said registrations are falling behind in Mercer, Mingo, Wayne, Mason, Jackson, Monongalia, Mineral, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, which includes counties that have comparatively large urban areas.
Justice also said Monday he’ll look into reports of at least two legislators purposely violating his emergency order mandating face masks in public buildings by wearing fake masks made of only straps during floor sessions and committee meetings.
“If they’re doing that to purposely mock or make a mockery of our mandate, that’s no good,” said Justice, who said he was unaware of the use of fake masks, something that has been featured extensively on social media and traditional media in recent days.
“They absolutely know the right thing is to be wearing the masks,” he added.
According to a Sunday HD Media article, both the House of Delegates and the Senate have adopted rules for conducting sessions during the pandemic.
House rules require members to wear face masks or sit in a designated area of a House gallery during floor sessions, but does specify requirements for masks.
Senate rules also designate a seating area in Senate chambers for members who are not wearing masks, but requires masks in committee meetings, again without mask specifications.
Justice in July 2020 issued an executive order, still in effect, mandating that face masks be worn in indoor public places.
Dr. Clay Marsh, state coronavirus czar, said it is unlikely the United States will ever reach herd immunity over COVID-19, which would occur if 80% of the population is resistant to the virus, either through vaccination, or having developed antibodies while infected with the virus.
“It’s probably not going to be achieved in its classic sense,” he said. “We won’t likely reach herd immunity in that way.”
However, he said if 40% to 50% of the population is resistant to the virus, that will significantly slow down transmission rates, something he said may be occurring with the current downturn in COVID-19 cases statewide and nationally.
Cabell County reported 616 current active COVID-19 cases as of Monday.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported two new deaths Monday: a 71-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman, both from Kanawha County. Justice issued a proclamation, in accordance with that of President Joe Biden, ordering all U.S. and West Virginia flags on all state-owned facilities be displayed at half-staff beginning Monday evening and continuing until sunset Feb. 26 in memory of the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 to date.