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West Virginia opens up COVID-19 vaccines for all residents age 16 and older

Photo Courtesy of the West Virginia Governor’s Office Gov. Jim Justice announces expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for West Virginians age 16 and older.

CHARLESTON — As active cases begin to increase again in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that all residents age 16 and older can now get in line for a COVID-19 vaccine, though focus remains on older residents.

“Let’s go, West Virginia, and let’s get everybody in this state vaccinated,” Justice said. “Beginning right now, if you’re 16 years of age and older and you want to get vaccinated and get into one of our clinics, we’ll get it done.”

West Virginia’s decision to open up vaccinates for all eligible residents follows Alaska and Mississippi. West Virginia opened up eligibility to residents age 16 and older with underlying medical conditions last week. President Joe Biden set a national goal of opening up vaccine eligibility to all by May 1.

West Virginia has fully vaccinated 15 percent of the state’s 1.79 million residents against COVID-19 since the first doses arrived last December, while nearly 25 percent of residents have at least one shot. The state receives weekly shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of which require two doses, as well as the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“As we continue to lead the way with our vaccine distribution, we don’t want to take our foot off the gas,” Justice said. “I encourage all West Virginians to take advantage of this opportunity and get vaccinated.”

Residents are encouraged to go to vaccinate.wv.gov and pre-register for the Everbridge system or call the West Virginia COVID-29 Vaccine Info Line at 1-833-734-0965 for assistance with pre-registration. Justice stressed that the state’s focus remains on getting older residents vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We’re going to continue prioritizing all those 65 years of age and older, but at the same time we’ve got to get more and more and more West Virginians and now is our time,” Justice said.

Justice also announced the return of fairs and festivals in the state starting Saturday, May 1. Justice said state health officials would issue guidance in the next few days on how to restart fairs and festivals safely.

“As we get closer to some level or normalcy, I’m so hopeful that we’ll be able to have our fairs and festivals and do a lot of good stuff and try to get back to that normalcy as fast as we possibly can,” Justice said. “These events are part of our fiber and we want them to go on.”

Fairs and festivals were shut down last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and re-opened on July 1, 2020. But increases in case numbers resulted in Justice limiting outdoor public gatherings to no more than 25 people and closing all fairs and festivals 13 days later. Last year, Justice awarded $1.5 million in state COVID-19 relief to the state’s 330 fairs and festivals due to lost revenue from the COVID-19 shut down last summer.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources, the number of positive cases over a 14-day period between March 8 and March 20 was 4,507, which was a 16-percent increase compared to 3,898 cases between Feb. 22 through March. 7.

As of Monday, the most recent data available, the state reported 276 new cases received in a 24-hour period compared to Sunday’s data. The state averaged 347 cases per day over a seven-day period, up from 298 cases the previous seven days.

Active COVID-19 cases, the number of infected people in self-quarantine or hospitalized, was 5,600 cases as of Monday, a 7 percent increase from 5,214 active cases seven days ago. All 55 counties have active cases for the 22nd week in a row. Active cases have increased in 29 out of 55 counties over the last seven days.

The state reported 2,612 total COVID-19 deaths as of Monday, with 20 new deaths reported last week due to delayed reporting from hospitals, long-term care facilities and home health. There were 96 deaths reported between March 8 and March 20, a 50 percent increase from the 64 deaths reported the previous 14 days. Over a seven-day period, the state saw an average of nine deaths per day, up from six deaths per day last week.

Hospitalizations were 198 hospitalizations as of Monday, up from 151 hospitalizations the previous week, a 31 percent increase. The average number of hospitalizations over a 14-day period decreased by 28 percent over the average number of hospitalizations the previous 14 days. The number of infected people in intensive care units was 67, up from 50 last week, and 21 people are on ventilators, down from 23 last week.

The total number of tests between March 8 and March 20 was 123,716, a .96-percent increase in testing compared to 122,541 tests over the previous 14-day period. Over the last seven days, the state conducted an average of 9,044 tests per day, up from 8,630 tests per day the previous week.

Jefferson County was the only red county on DHHR’s County Alert System map Monday, with active cases there increasing by 66 percent since last week. Counties listed as red either have higher infection rates or high percent of positivity, meaning high schools in those counties would have to go to remote learning. Pre-K, elementary and middle schools can open for in-person learning regardless of map color.

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