Justice discusses vaccinations, rental relief during briefing
CHARLESTON — Two major announcements came out of Gov. Jim Justice’s pandemic briefing Wednesday morning.
The governor announced effective Wednesday the age for vaccinations will drop from 80 and older to 70 and older with the goal to get to 65 and older as soon as possible, maybe next week, in keeping with the Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
“I’m all for it,” he said.
Also announced was the creation of a relief program for renters and landlords impacted by the pandemic, the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program. It will be funded by federal sources, he said.
“There’s significant money on the way,” Justice said.
Justice’s announcement about lowering the age for vaccinations follows an announcement on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Joint Inter Agency Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccines and the governor about 14 clinics around the state this week for those 80 and older. A clinic is scheduled today in Wood County.
Justice said the age is now 70 and older.
When the age guideline goes to 65 and older for vaccinations depends on when and how many doses of vaccine are received, according to the governor.
“We’re going to follow the (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines as soon as I know we have the vaccines,” Justice said.
The goal is to get vaccinations into many residents as soon as possible without having the vials sit on a shelf, the governor said. Each dose in the arm is a life saved, he said.
“It’s saving lives like we can’t imagine,” Justice said.
The state on Tuesday received an additional 34,960 vaccines and all those doses will be administered before the week is over, Justice said. More than 9,850 doses were administered by the state in a 24-hour period, he said Wednesday morning.
Vaccination efforts in West Virginia have received national attention, which has had a positive impact on the state’s image, according to Justice.
The Joint Interagency Task Force on Vaccinations will prepare for the lowering of the age guideline, James A. Hoyer, a retired general of the National Guard who directs the task force, said. Hoyer now heads the task force.
“A lot of additional work is going on to continue to prepare for as the governor pointed out changing that age criteria to 65,” he said.
Significant movement has been made this week in vaccinating teachers and service personnel in anticipation of in-person classes and an emphasis continues on testing, Hoyer said.
The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program will be administered by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and will provide direct financial assistance to renters who have lost their jobs, lost income or suffered significant loss or financial hardship because of the pandemic, Justice said.
“That’s good stuff,” he said.
Money is on the way from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, he said. Details of the program will be released later, Justice said. The state is waiting for additional information from the Treasury Department and funds will be on their way by the end of January, he said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued a release after Justice’s press conference that said his initial emergency relief proposal included $25 billion in rental assistance. West Virginia will receive about $200 million from the Emergency Rental Assistance program from the recent COVID-19 stimulus package.
“Across the state, West Virginians are struggling to find jobs, put food on the table, or keep a roof over their head due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Manchin said. “I fought to include rental assistance in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package and now West Virginia will receive an estimated $200 million from the Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide rental assistance and help keep a roof over our neighbors’ heads.”
Jess Mancini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.