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COVID-19 Update: Gathering Limit Removed for Social Purposes, Masks Mandate May Be Dropped Depending on Vaccination Rate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – COVID-19 restrictions in place for over a year are beginning to change in the Mountain State.

Governor 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.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, at his direction, the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) has collaborated with WVU to provide a more accurate picture of how many West Virginians have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. 
With the help of the White House, WVU researchers went directly to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and manually analyzed their data to get a truly accurate number.

“We have now reached the threshold where we have now exceeded two-thirds of West Virginia residents age 65 and over who are fully vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said, adding that over 77% of West Virginians in this age range have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The latest data also shows that the total vaccine eligible population of West Virginia is 1.47 million. Of the number of eligible West Virginians, 50.9% have received at least one dose, while 37.8% are fully vaccinated.

“So we’ve still got a way to go,” Gov. Justice said. “We need your help. We’re doing good. But we need your help to do even better.

“We’ve got to get our kids on board and we’ve got to get that 16-35 age range on board, and then we’ll start moving this 50.9% of people who have received at least one dose, and start heading toward 70%,” Gov. Justice continued. “When we get to 70%, we hope that these masks will be a memory. That’s what we want to strive for. Help me out, West Virginians. I really need you to encourage the kids, our college students, all the young who are around you; get vaccinated.”

Until that threshold is crossed, Justice gave a reminder that his Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement still remains in effect.

All West Virginians age 9 and older 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, 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.