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Justice to sign executive order lifting many of his 91 pandemic orders; mask mandate to remain in place

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that he’s issuing a new executive order undoing many of the previous 91 he issued since March 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of it was necessary and valuable at the time, he said. “It’s now lived its time, and it’s time to move forward.”

Among the most significant changes, the limitations on social gatherings will be lifted. However, he urged people to continue social distancing. The mask mandate will remain in place.

The full text of the order was released later Monday, but during the briefing Justice said he’ll be leaving in place suspensions on regulations regarding health care access, business licensing, and other orders to make life easier.

He’s also keeping in place orders for hospitals to have surge capacity plans at the ready. He will reinstate some unemployment benefit requirements that were waived.

Much of the briefing was again devoted to urging people to get vaccinated. Not counting those under 16, about 600,000 residents remain unvaccinated.

Joint Interagency Task Force director James Hoyer repeated his message from last week: “We are in a race.” The COVID-19 variants are more contagious and more dangerous, he said, adding, “we have plenty of vaccines available.”

The task force is preparing to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds, he said.

Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad said Pfizer hasn’t yet received its FDA emergency use authorization to vaccinate that age group, but it’s expected in the next few weeks.

Justice stepped into coach mode to make his pitch, lamenting that his own basketball team all declined the vaccine in his absence. “I’ve got to do better. You’ve got to do better … The game’s ours to win. Right now’s the time to win the game.”

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