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Justice continues to urge more vaccinations

CHARLESTON — West Virginia is working towards certain benchmarks to get the state’s population vaccinated for COVID-19, including providing savings bonds to people of a certain age.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced 15 new deaths in the state due to COVID-19. They were aged 47-83 from Berkley, Mineral, Mercer, Putnam, Raleigh, Barber, Lewis, Hancock, Logan and Kanawha counties.

“This is what we have to stop,” Justice said. “Let’s not let all of these folks we have lost die in vain.”

Over the prior day from Tuesday to Wednesday, 453 people statewide have tested positive from 10,818 tests given. The daily positivity rate is at 3.43 and the cumulative rate has dropped from 5.18 to 5.17.

The state’s active cases are at 7,081 with over 142,000 who have recovered. Currently, there are 248 people are hospitalized and 83 in the ICU unit.

The state has administered 1.35 million doses of vaccine for the first and second shots. Over a third of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated.

The state’s vaccine availability is for people ages, 16 and above. The governor urged people to go get vaccinated.

“Do something that is so meaningful and so patriotic,” Justice said of getting vaccinated. “We have to make some big dents in this.”

Earlier this week, Justice offered state residents between the ages of 16-35 a $100 U.S. Savings bond once they get vaccinated with ether the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“With the saving bonds, if we can stop this that will be the best money we could ever spend,” he said.

The money for the bonds is coming from CARES Act money that the state had already received. A lot of money is continually being spent on testing and Justice thinks money could be spent to encourage people to get vaccinated.

If the majority of the state’s 16-35 age group got vaccinated, the state could reach around 70 percent that will impact the pandemic and move towards getting rid of the mask rule.

“You are the key to the whole thing,” Justice said. “Step up. It can save your life or a loved one’s life.”

West Virginia COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said extreme reactions from the vaccine are extremely rare with few side effects.

Justice is looking at ways to eventually reduce mask wearing requirements and to eventually get rid of it when certain vaccination requirements are met.

“My medical team is telling me we have to stay the course for a little longer,” he said.

Justice said they are still looking into ways to keep track of vaccinations for people who go to school out-of-state or who live in other states during the winter.

The state is continuing campaign efforts to get people to vaccinate. Justice said in the last two months, the state has spent $19-$22 million on testing alone. That same amount of money going to saving bonds for vaccinations would stop the pandemic in the state, Justice said.

The governor said not vaccinating could lead to the rise of variants which could lead to long-term health problems for many people.

“The level of consequences could be phenomenal,” he said. “The people who are getting this vaccine are living.”

Justice said there are 566,476 people in the state who are fully vaccinated. Of that, three have died of COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.

“The likelihood of you having a problem from this vaccine is almost nothing,” he said.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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