MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice not unexpectedly announced Monday that he’s looking to include 12- to 15-year-olds in the $100 vaccine incentive program, now that they are eligible to be vaccinated. Details of the program are still being worked out.
Justice also followed up on his Friday announcement that those who’ve been fully vaccinated may engage in indoor and outdoor activities without a mask.
Many had asked how that would be enforced — how the vaccinated and unvaccinated would be distinguished. He said Monday it’s the honor system.
He cautioned, “This thing can slip back on any of us.” And he reminded everyone that private businesses can still require mask-wearing on their premises.
The recent addition of those ages 12-15 skewed the vaccination numbers down a bit, Justice said. The current figure for those 12-and-up fully vaccinated is 45.1%, and 54.2% for those with one shot. He remains confident that his Call to Arms goal of getting a first shot into 65% of all those eligible will be reached by June 20, when the entire mask mandate is lifted.
The numbers for those 65 and up is 72.5% fully vaccinated, 81.6% for one dose.
The Department of Health and Human Resources, Justice said, will stop updating its coronavirus dashboard seven days a week and only do it Monday-Friday now.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh explained why the FDA and CDC updated and loosened their mask guidance last week. “The science really supported that,” he said.
The vaccines are remarkably effective, he said, more than anyone had anticipated. And there is sufficient vaccine supply to vaccinate everybody 12 and up.
But for those still worried about the safety of the vaccines, he said, the U.S. studies show that the vaccines are 90% percent effective for stopping any infection, and 95% to 97% effective in reducing any illness, if a breakthrough infection occurs after vaccination.
In Qatar, he said, about half of those infected have the UK variant and half have the South African variant. The vaccines there have been 90% able to reduce infection from the UK, and 75% effective for the South African.
However, he said, if you’re vaccinated and don’t feel comfortable unmasked, wear one. It could help protect you more.
On other topics, Justice said that over the weekend the state received $677,744,994 from the American Rescue Plan. His staff is working on a strategic plan and he’ll be contacting legislative leaders next week for their input. “We’re going to work hand-in-hand.”
Justice said he hopes to have more information Wednesday about his proposal to incentivize people to return to work — pending the June 19 suspension of federal unemployment bonus benefits — with a $500 payment matched by $500 from the employer.
Asked about those small businesses that can’t afford their $500 match, he admitted it’s an issue. “That’s what we’re looking at … It’s just too much. That’s why we haven’t pulled the trigger.”
At this point, he’d like businesses to contribute something, but they’re working on it.
Asked about those who will game the system and quit after the 90-day requirement to stay on the job in order to receive the payment, he admitted it’s a good question. “I don’t know.”
He also agreed with another point raised: That the program could be seen as rewarding those who’ve gamed the system so far by avoiding work in order to collect the $300 weekly federal supplement.
“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he said, but they have to try something to get people working. “You’ve got to keep going north, you’ve got to keep the boat moving.”
TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp