MORGANTOWN — West Virginians will be able to celebrate the state’s 158th birthday by taking their masks off.
Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that he’s set June 20 as the date to lift the mask mandate, based on vaccination projections by his COVID team.
Assuming the CDC opens up the vaccines for ages 12-15 soon, he said, by June 20, it’s estimated 65% of the population age 12 and up will have had a first dose; that includes 75% age 50 and up and 85% age 65 and up.
And if the number isn’t quite there: “We’ll be close enough. We’ll be going with that date, period … You’ve done one whale of a job, West Virginia, you really have.”
Justice dubbed the ongoing effort to reach the target “our call to arms” — not guns in this case, but actual arms to put vaccine shots into.
Asked if businesses could elect to require masks on their premises after June 20, he said, “If you’re a private business you do what you want to do.” But the mandate will be lifted.
The Dominion Post mentioned that many aspects of the pandemic have evolved and asked if the concept of herd immunity — previously estimated at 70%-75% of the population vaccinated — has evolved downward.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said that with the variants now infecting people — mostly younger people, with the UK variant having its highest spread in the 10-19 ages group — herd immunity estimates have actually edged upward to 80%-85%.
But other factors play a role, he said, as we move from making academic projections to having real-world evidence and data to work with.
He cited the particular example of Israel, which reached an “inflection point” when 60% of its population was immunized. Real-world data shows the numbers start falling at that point. “Even as you open things up they continue to stay down. We believe these are the right targets for West Virginia.”
He continued, “We’re in a learning mode. We want to be flexible. We want to be agile. But we also want to return to regular life for all West Virginians absolutely as soon as we can.”
Justice again urged residents ages 16-35 to get vaccinated, noting that with the variants, the average age testing positive is 34.
Joint Interagency Task Force Director James Hoyer said the state will no longer use the Everbridge vaccination system in the same way. There’s no longer a need to use it as the central registration platform because there are now so many ways to get vaccinated. But they will continue to use it for messaging.
Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad addressed a couple ever-circulating misconceptions about the vaccine.
First, there is no information that getting vaccinated is connected to infertility, she said. In fact, getting COVID while pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage.
Second, the vaccines don’t alter your DNA, she said.
She didn’t elaborate, but The Dominion Post previously reported that Pfizer and Moderna use synthetic mRNA — messenger RNA — to convey information about the coronavirus spike protein (the little mushroomy protrusions you see in pictures of the coronavirus) to the immune system so the system can identify the virus and prevent the virus spike proteins from adhering to the patient’s cells.
The mRNA degrades and never interacts with or alters a person’s DNA.
TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp