Randy Yohe Published

Governor Ends COVID-19 Emergency In W.Va. Effective Jan. 1

Governor Jim Justice speaks at his virtual press briefing, June 26, 2020

Two weeks ago, Gov. Jim Justice signed a proclamation quietly ending emergency rules for COVID-19 effective Jan. 1, 2023.

In his Wednesday coronavirus briefing, Justice said, “There was no reason to make a big announcement on this, no reason to get on a soap box and turn this into a political situation.”

He said the state will still receive the federal rescue funds it is entitled to receive.

The governor’s Chief of Staff, Brian Abraham, said in the briefing that the public will not see any real change with the lifting of the COVID-19 emergency proclamation.

“The only things that have been in effect and continue to remain in effect, and will be through the end of the year, are things that we’ve put in place to help healthcare workers,” Abraham said. “For instance, with regard to their licensures, it gives extended time for them to renew their licenses to get their educational credits.”

Abraham said COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at pharmacies and county health departments. He said the pandemic response Joint Interagency Task Force will remain in operation.

“The governor had funded the task force previously through CARES dollars,” Abraham said, “That will remain in place as a headquarters to operate support for any of those agencies that do need it.”

The governor originally declared a state of emergency March 16, 2020. The state reported its first positive COVID-19 case the following day.

The emergency order mobilized the state’s response to the pandemic and allowed state agencies to suspend rules that could interfere with the emergency response.

Justice’s proclamation notes that there is “still work to be done, but the time for the emergency response has ended.”

All emergency rules put in place and all additional related executive orders will be lifted as well, and Justice said that the Jan. 1 deadline will give time for the changes “without harmful effect on West Virginians.”

Throughout the pandemic, more than 7,600 West Virginians have died from COVID-19. On Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 11 more deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The governor’s 2020 emergency order mobilized the West Virginia National Guard and the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to respond to the pandemic. Retired Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer helped lead the state’s vaccination efforts. Around 78 percent of West Virginia residents 61 and older received both doses of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to DHHR data.

Justice and state health leaders have continued to urge residents to use DHHR’s online vaccine calculator to stay up to date on vaccinations.

The federal COVID-19 emergency order remains in place, and officials have indicated that they will give 60 days notice before ending the order.