HUNTINGTON — As the eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines are expanded in West Virginia, local agencies are making it easier for people to travel to and from vaccine clinics.
Eligibility requirements in the state were expanded Wednesday, and those now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine include members of the general public age 50 and over; school and higher education employees age 40 and over; as well as a variety of individuals age 16 and over with developmental disabilities, chronic medical conditions and women who are pregnant.
Anyone who needs a ride to and from a vaccine clinic can now use the Tri-State Transit Authority for free. The option is available on any TTA bus for those who have scheduled appointments with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
Officials with the health department also said that anyone 50 and older who has registered for a vaccine either with the department or on the state system, but has not yet received a call to get a first dose, should call them at 304-526-3383 on Friday, March 5, to schedule an appointment.
Anyone who missed their scheduled appointment due to inclement weather may go to their scheduled clinic site at their appointment time to receive the vaccine.
All West Virginians over the age of 16 are encouraged to pre-register for the vaccine at vaccinate.wv.gov.
There were 231 new cases of COVID-19 reported statewide Thursday, for a total of 132,677, with 2,309 total deaths. No new virus-related deaths were reported.
Total cases per county are: Barbour (1,234), Berkeley (9,741), Boone (1,595), Braxton (781), Brooke (2,016), Cabell (7,861), Calhoun (231), Clay (379), Doddridge (468), Fayette (2,692), Gilmer (718), Grant (1,077), Greenbrier (2,416), Hampshire (1,548), Hancock (2,601), Hardy (1,274), Harrison (4,862), Jackson (1,673), Jefferson (3,656), Kanawha (12,176), Lewis (1,048), Lincoln (1,233), Logan (2,711), Marion (3,696), Marshall (3,025), Mason (1,778), McDowell (1,354), Mercer (4,232), Mineral (2,594), Mingo (2,140), Monongalia (8,106), Monroe (955), Morgan (934), Nicholas (1,191), Ohio (3,662), Pendleton (622), Pleasants (802), Pocahontas (596), Preston (2,553), Putnam (4,243), Raleigh (4,776), Randolph (2,403), Ritchie (624), Roane (499), Summers (705), Taylor (1,095), Tucker (506), Tyler (619), Upshur (1,703), Wayne (2,627), Webster (325), Wetzel (1,098), Wirt (360), Wood (7,114) and Wyoming (1,749).
Cabell County reported 464 active cases Thursday, while Wayne County reported 128.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday set a specific target of reduced coronavirus cases as the benchmark for ending public health orders in the state, including mask wearing.
Those orders will be lifted once the state hits the mark of 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, DeWine said. He called the goal “very doable,” noting that that figure has already dropped from 731 cases Dec. 3 to 445 cases Feb. 3 and to 179 cases Thursday.
But meeting that goal requires continued mask wearing for now and for as many people to receive the coronavirus vaccine as possible, DeWine said. The state now has supplies of three vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
DeWine, many of whose grandchildren are runners, compared the requirement for continued vigilance to toughing out the last portion of a marathon.
“No marathoner pulls out on purpose at the 25th mile marker,” the governor said.
“They know that they’re almost to the finish line,” he said. “And that is when the marathoner digs even deeper from within to martial the will to go on, to go on to that finish line.”
DeWine called masks a “battle-tested” tool proven to work.
The announcement came a week after the governor announced expanded attendance figures for sports and entertainment venues and lifted bans on large gatherings — such as wedding receptions — as long as social distancing and mask wearing continues.
It also came two days after Texas announced it was ending its mask mandate. Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, credited DeWine for keeping the mask mandate even as she criticized him for not properly planning for the vaccine rollout.
Sykes commended DeWine “for standing up to Statehouse Republicans and others in his party by committing to the mask mandate, an easy, proven, low-cost intervention to stop the spread.”
As they did last year, fellow Ohio Republican lawmakers continue to push new bills to restrict a governor’s ability to enact public health orders during a pandemic.
In his 15-minute speech, DeWine reviewed the beginning of the pandemic, which for many started this week. It was one year ago that DeWine laid down strict attendance limits on the annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, a giant sports festival that typically attracts 20,000 athletes from 80 countries as well as thousands of spectators.
Nine days later, DeWine ordered schools closed for three weeks, an order that ultimately ended in-person learning for many districts for nearly a year.
DeWine applauded Ohioans for showing what he called “our Ohio grit” over the past year even in the face of job losses and the deaths of loved ones from the coronavirus.
He also acknowledged that “all of us are so sick of this virus,” while encouraging a fight to the finish.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 2,353 new cases per day Feb. 17 to 1,801 new cases per day March 3, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.
More than 1.8 million people in Ohio have received at least one shot of the vaccine, or about 15% of the population as of Thursday, according to the state Health Department. More than 980,000 have completed their vaccinations, or about 8% of the population.
In Kentucky, there are 567 sites where residents can get COVID-19 vaccines, the governor said Thursday.
Gov. Andy Beshear said the state has added 157 new sites in the past week, most of them at pharmacies.
More than 845,000 Kentuckians have received at least the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the governor said at his pandemic briefing.
“Our pace continues to pick up,” Beshear said.
Kentucky reported 1,068 new cases of the virus Thursday, and a positivity rate of 4.4%, the lowest rate since Oct. 12, Beshear said. There were 28 newly reported deaths.
In Boyd County, three new cases were reported, for a total of 4,572. There have been 61 virus-related deaths in the county.