COVID-19 UPDATE: Pandemic Response Leadership Team discusses vaccinations becoming available for children ages 6 months and older – Governor Jim Justice

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the state’s latest pandemic response and vaccine distribution efforts.

PANDEMIC RESPONSE LEADERSHIP TEAM DISCUSSES COVID VACCINATIONS BECOMING AVAILABLE FOR CHILDREN AGES 6 MONTHS AND OLDER
During his briefing Wednesday, Gov. Justice was joined by members of West Virginia’s Pandemic Response Leadership Team, including State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad and Joint Interagency Task Force Director Jim Hoyer, who discussed the recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines for use in children as young as 6 months old.

“We want to remind everyone that choosing vaccinations for our youngest age group in West Virginia is very important,” Dr. Amjad said. “Young people still get sick, they can end up in the hospital. So we encourage you to get your children vaccinated. Even if a child has had COVID-19 in the past, they should still get vaccinated. We know it can help reduce reinfections.”

Hoyer announced that over 17,000 additional vaccine doses have been ordered and are expected to arrive in West Virginia before the end of the month to help manage any increase in demand with the new authorization for the youngest age group.

“Vaccines are now offered and becoming increasingly available in physician’s offices, pediatrician’s offices, local health departments, community health centers, hospitals, and pharmacies,” Hoyer said. “Please remember children ages 3 and younger cannot receive a vaccine from the pharmacy. You would have to visit one of the other sites mentioned.”

The West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccination Due Date Calculator has been updated to account for children ages 6 months and older now being eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We continue to work hard to educate people about the value of the vaccine, particularly as new variants are discovered,” Hoyer said. “The Governor continues to press us to do our best to protect West Virginians.”

Over the past month, 4,500 West Virginians opted to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

CASE NUMBERS & VACCINE/BOOSTER INFO
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that there are now 1,882 active cases of COVID-19 statewide, up by 27 cases since the Governor’s previous briefing Wednesday last week.

COVID-19 Dashboard | Coronavirus.wv.gov

An updated breakdown of the West Virginia County Alert Map is as follows:
Red (0) | Orange (0) Gold (0) | Yellow (20) | Green (35)

GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES MELISSA DECKER TO LEAD WEST VIRGINIA’S NEW D.C. OFFICE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to announce that Melissa Decker will lead West Virginia’s new office located in the Hall of States in Washington, D.C.

Decker will work to identify areas where the State of West Virginia can compete for more federal grant funding. She will also serve as Gov. Justice’s liaison with West Virginia’s Congressional Delegation and will serve as the primary point of contact between federal officials and the State of West Virginia.

“Melissa is going to pound the pavement in every direction she can and flip every rock to find any and every possible grant we can get for the State of West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re just trying, with all in us, to bring more dollars and more opportunity to West Virginia.”

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GOVERNOR APPOINTS LORRIE SMITH AS NEW STATE WORKFORCE RESILIENCY OFFICER
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he has appointed Lorrie Smith to the new position of State Workforce Resiliency Officer.

Created by the passage of the Governor’s West Virginia Workforce Resiliency Act, the new State Workforce Resiliency Office will operate on behalf of the Governor to coordinate workforce development, job training, education, and related programs across numerous State agencies and entities to grow West Virginia’s workforce and to provide more options for West Virginians seeking work and West Virginia businesses seeking employees. The Workforce Resiliency Officer is tasked with leading these efforts.

“Lorrie and this new office are going to be the glue that brings all of our workforce development efforts together,” Gov. Justice said. “Lorrie is a terrific person. Most recently, she has served as the Manager for my Jobs & Hope program. She’s a good person and we’re really proud of her.”

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DHHR TO RAISE GROUND AMBULANCE MEDICAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICES
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that he has directed the DHHR’s Bureau for Medical Services to submit a State Plan Amendment to seek approval to raise ground ambulance medical transportation services to 100% of the Medicare geographic prevailing fee.  

This will provide approximately 208 ambulance providers with a 10% increase in their reimbursement rates and an estimated additional $11.8 million per fiscal year. The rate increase will be effective July 1, 2022.

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REVIEW OF DHHR MOVING FORWARD
A top-to-bottom review of DHHR is now officially underway to identify what is working well within the agency, as well as any opportunities for improvement.

The Governor announced Wednesday that The McChrystal Group, which was recently awarded the contract for the organizational review, has been hard at work for the last few weeks meeting with various DHHR staff.

Next week, DHHR employees will participate in an organizational assessment using an online survey specifically for DHHR employees.

The 17-week process will conclude with a set of recommendations to make an informed decision about how best to shape DHHR going forward.

GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY FOR MINGO COUNTY
Gov. Justice also reiterated his announcement earlier this week that he had issued a State of Emergency declaration for Mingo County due to a severe weather system that struck the county on Friday, June 17, 2022

“The storm went through and caused all kinds of flash flooding, downed trees and power lines, and road blockages,” Gov. Justice said Wednesday. “The West Virginia Emergency Management Division is responding to this event with resources to help get the cleanup process done as quickly as we possibly can.”

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WEST VIRGINIA BREAKS ALL-TIME STATE UNEMPLOYMENT RECORD FOR 8TH MONTH IN A ROW
The Governor went on to echo his announcement last week that West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 3.5% for May 2022, breaking the all-time record for the lowest unemployment rate recorded in state history for the 8th consecutive month.

“It just keeps on getting better. This is not just us decreasing the unemployment rate. This is the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state of West Virginia eight times in a row,” Gov. Justice said Wednesday. “It’s not often in life that you set a record eight times in a row. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 500 in May, while total employment grew by 1,700 over the month.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has now decreased for 25 straight months.

For the 18th time in the past 25 months, West Virginia’s unemployment rate was lower than the national unemployment rate.

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LARGER-THAN-LIFE ALMOST HEAVEN SWINGS DEBUT ACROSS WEST VIRGINIA
Gov. Justice also went back over his announcement earlier this week that the West Virginia Department of Tourism has set up a series of nine handcrafted, larger-than-life Almost Heaven swings at some of the state’s most scenic locations.

The Department of Tourism teamed up with students at Nicholas County Career and Technical Center to build the supersized wooden swing sets, perfect for taking a picture fit for social media.

The swings were placed in a scenic location or overlook in each of the state’s nine travel regions. Sites were strategically selected after analyzing over 100,000 social media posts from across the state to find some of West Virginia’s most beloved vistas.

The swings can be found at the following locations:

  • Eastern Panhandle: Cacapon Resort State Park
  • Hatfield-McCoy Mountains: Buffalo Mountain Trail – Death Rock 
  • Metro Valley: University of Charleston
  • Mid-Ohio Valley: Fort Boreman Scenic Overlook
  • Mountain Lakes: Stonewall Resort State Park
  • Mountaineer Country: Coopers Rock State Forest
  • New River-Greenbrier Valley: Babcock State Park
  • Northern Panhandle: Wheeling Heritage Port
  • Potomac Highlands: Blackwater Falls State Park

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GOVERNOR RECAPS WEST VIRGINIA’S 159TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
Additionally, Gov. Justice took time to recap the festivities at the State Culture Center on Monday, June 20, 2022, in celebration of West Virginia’s 159th Birthday.

The festivities began with the Governor and First Lady Cathy Justice announcing the winner of the West Virginia Birthday Cake Contest.

Kim Wymer of Scott Depot was named the grand prize winner. Her recipe – titled “Ms. Van’s Blackberry Skillet Cake” – is now the official birthday cake of West Virginia and will be served as part of the annual West Virginia Day festivities every year going forward.

After the traditional cake cutting ceremony and musical performances by the West Virginia Ambassador’s Camp Choir and Wyatt Blankenship, the celebration moved into the State Theater for a special Golden Horseshoe Reunion.

Since 1931, more than 15,000 West Virginia students have received the Golden Horseshoe Award in recognition of their knowledge of West Virginia history. Each year, thousands of eighth graders across the state take the Golden Horseshoe examination and more than 200 are inducted into the prestigious Golden Horseshoe Society.

The reunion was open to all recipients of the Golden Horseshoe Award over the years.

As part of the ceremony, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch knighted Gov. Justice with an honorary Golden Horseshoe in recognition of his service to West Virginia and support of the state’s history.

Later in the afternoon, the State Culture Center hosted another new event: the inaugural West Virginia History Bowl Legends Tournament.

“It was a really good day. I couldn’t be more proud of this state,” Gov. Justice said.

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