CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia will lift its statewide mask mandate on June 20 after state officials projected more than two-thirds of eligible residents will be vaccinated against the coronavirus by then, Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday.
And even if that target isn’t met, Justice said the mandate will still end on that date, also known as West Virginia Day, which marks the state’s admission into the union.READ MORE: ACLU, Voter Groups Sue In Ohio Over New Legislative Maps
“We’ll be close enough,” he said at his regularly scheduled news conference. “We’re going with that date, period.”
The state has attempted to turn around its sluggish vaccination drive for weeks after hesitancy led to plummeting demand. The Republican governor has already dangled the prize of a “patriotic” $100 savings bond for people aged 16 to 35 who get a shot. The state is also attempting to make walk-up vaccine clinics ubiquitous, holding them at state parks, fairs, businesses, schools and other high-traffic places.
Justice said he expects 65% of all residents aged 12 and older to be at least partially vaccinated by June 20. The state is gearing up to begin vaccinating children aged 12 to 16 once the federal government gives emergency use authorization for a vaccine.
He also targets 75% of residents aged 50 and over to be vaccinated, and 85% coverage for senior citizens.READ MORE: Pennsylvania Food Banks Team Up With DoorDash To Deliver Free Meals To Seniors
The date won’t be moved up if the state reaches those metrics earlier.
“We’re going to call this our call to arms,” Justice said. “We need the arms in a different way. We need arms to put shots into.”
Justice also has said he wants to beat President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of American adults by July Fourth. The state has currently given at least one dose to 54% of its eligible population of people over the age of 16.
About 40.5% of all residents in the state have received at least one dose of a vaccine, state data show, and 34.4% are fully vaccinated.MORE NEWS: PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro Files Brief Saying Health Secretary Has Power To Mandate Masks In Schools
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