Eric Douglas Published

Justice Won’t Reinstate Mask Mandate Amid Delta Variant Surge

Justice briefing 7-27-21.jpg

The increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, brought on by the Delta Variant, is raising alarm in many parts of the country — especially those with lagging vaccination rates.

In reaction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that everyone who lives in areas with high caseloads of the coronavirus, including the vaccinated, wear masks when they are in indoor public spaces.

Additionally, vaccinated people who live with unvaccinated children or those who are immunocompromised should wear masks indoors in public spaces. This is to avoid bringing the virus into the home.

The updated guidance also recommends universal masking for teachers, staff and students in schools regardless of their vaccination status.

In his regular news conference, Gov. Jim Justice said he wasn’t ready to make that change in West Virginia. But he said the situation was fluid.

“We’ve all got to be smart enough to be open-minded,” Justice said. “As we continue to watch and listen to the experts we’re going to have to be open-minded as to what to do.”

Justice, when asked by a reporter about mask mandates in schools, said he didn’t think the state was there yet, but that “we knew it was coming.”

His comment was in reference to the low vaccination rates among those who are 12 to 17 years old. He also said he did not see there being a mandatory vaccine mandate for state employees or teachers as has been ordered in other states.

West Virginia has not seen large numbers of Delta variant cases, but those are rising each week. There are currently 43 cases in 19 counties. To date, there have been 2,936 coronavirus deaths statewide.

Hospitalizations in West Virginia due to COVID-19 have more than doubled since the Fourth of July. There are 111 hospitalizations in the state and there were 121 new confirmed cases reported on Tuesday, up from 51 cases a week ago.

Officials have repeatedly urged more residents to get vaccinated. Nearly 59 percent of all residents have received at least one dose, while 49 percent are fully vaccinated.