MORGANTOWN — With flu and cold season right around the corner, West Virginians are being urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“With flu season coming on in the fall and winter, unvaccinated West Virginians are going to … cause West Virginia to have a challenging fall and winter,” said Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer during Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing.
There are 21,500 active cases in the state. More than 700 hospitalizations are confirmed, 82 percent of which are among unvaccinated people. Hospitals are continuing to see record high numbers, with 112 patients on ventilators.
Implementation of a state-level mask mandate is still on hold in West Virginia as Gov. Jim Justice stressed the decision should be made at the local level. He said 30 of the 55 counties in West Virginia have implemented mask mandates.
“Many of us have advocated all along that we want the people to make decisions,” Justice said. “We want the local levels to make more decisions and everything. That’s what it should all be about.”
After announcing West Virginia’s 3,148 death, Justice continued to encourage getting vaccinated for the protection of everybody.
The question of whether a mask mandate should be placed on middle schools from last week’s briefing was asked again as COVID-19-related school shutdowns continue to occur. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Justice said it is a difficult decision to make on exactly what to do, but said he is trying to abide by the wishes of local people to make the best decisions for their counties.
“If your kid wants to go to school in Putnam County and you want them to wear a mask, have them wear their mask,” he said. “From the standpoint of mandating in the schools, that decision has to be, right now, for the local level, but that can change.”
Justice said the state is ready to begin administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, but is waiting for the go-ahead from the U.S. government.
In recognition of Labor Day, Justice encouraged all to acknowledge those who worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whether they were first responders or health departments or the hospitals or even the grocery workers, that absolutely stayed open, knowing that every day when they climbed out of bed, strapped on their boots, that they were going right into the fire,” he said, “absolutely, for all of us.”