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Justice celebrates West Virginia’s 158th birthday, state’s COVID efforts

Wood County residents among vaccine lotto winners — including $1M prize

Gov. Jim Justice praises the state during West Virginia Day ceremonies at the State Capitol Building. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — Standing on the front steps of the Capitol Sunday, Gov. Jim Justice, state officials and lawmakers joined the public in celebrating West Virginia’s founding while also celebrating success at controlling COVID-19 spread.

“The sun is shining beyond belief,” Justice said to the gathered crowd, some sitting in seats under the hot sun in Lincoln Plaza on steps overlooking the Kanawha River and many others sitting under the shaded trees flanking the plaza. “The sun is shining in West Virginia because of you.”

Justice praised state residents on West Virginia’s 158th birthday for staying strong during the COVID-19 pandemic, paid tribute to the more than 2,863 coronavirus deaths, and rewarded several West Virginians for getting their COVID-19 vaccines in the first week of the state’s vaccine incentive lottery.

“You had to show your mettle in every way,” Justice said. “You had to step up and you brought us through this. West Virginians from far and near, I congratulate you with all my soul. We’ve still got a ways to go…we don’t want to drop our guard and we sure don’t want to have one of these variants that’s been around hit us in a really bad way.”

The first $1 million drawing took place with Karen Foley of Mineral Wells receiving a giant check Sunday, along with Rebecca Osborne of Hurricane and Elizabeth Ball of Nitro winning a full college scholarship to any public in-state four-year institution.

A crowd listens to see who won during the announcing of winners for the state’s vaccine incentive lottery Sunday. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

Two custom-outfitted trucks were awarded to Melissa Spivy of Vienna and Ralph Paugh of Parkersburg. Other prizes given away Sunday included weekend vacations at state parks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and custom hunting shotguns.

Weekly drawings, including for $1 million, will take place until Aug. 4, culminating with a grand prize of $1.588 million and $588,000 for the runner-up.

More than 61.5 percent of eligible West Virginians age 12 and older have either one dose of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as of Thursday, according to the report from the Department of Health and Human Resources. More than 85 percent of those most at risk, age 65 and older, are partially vaccinated, accounting for the collapse of active cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Justice announced Sunday the indoor mask mandate was officially lifted for all residents. It was previously lifted for vaccinated individuals. The state remains under a state of emergency since the pandemic first made its presence in the state in March 2020.

“It’s been a year and 100 days since we’ve been struggling against this killer,” Justice said. “I read to you at the time that it’s time not to panic. It’s a time to be cautious. It’s not a time to be fearful, it’s a time to be smart. It’s not a time to be weak, it’s a time to be West Virginia-strong. We did it, we really did it.”

West Virginia was founded as the 35th on June 20, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, though the process started two years earlier shortly after Virginia voted to join the Confederate States of America.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, several counties upset with Virginia’s succession from the United States met for the Second Wheeling Convention to form the Restored Government of Virginia. Those delegates began the process of spinning West Virginia into a new state. Since 1863, the Capitol moved several times between Wheeling and Charleston before permanently settling along the Kanawha River.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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