CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia officials are still working to hammer out details of how to send $100 savings bonds for residents age 16 to 35 who get a coronavirus shot.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the incentive program to immunize young people will also apply retroactively for anyone in the age range who already received a vaccine. He said his administration is working with the U.S. Treasury Department to make arrangements for the bonds, which can take up to two decades to mature to their full value.
If issuing bonds becomes too complex, he said the state will just send $100 checks.
“You no question are transmitting this thing faster than anyone,” Justice said at his regularly held coronavirus news conference, addressing young people. “You are the key to this whole thing.”
The incentive program would be funded through federal coronavirus relief funds. Justice first announced plans for the program Monday.
The pace of the state's vaccination drive has slowed considerably over the past month, trailing most states.
Justice has aimed to motivate people through incentives and the pledge that he will consider lifting the mask mandate if 70% of eligible people get vaccinated. Currently, 47.8% of eligible residents in the state have received at least one dose, according to state data.
Justice set a goal of vaccinating 70% of people age 16 to 35. For senior citizens, the governor wants 85% coverage, and it currently is about 6.5 percentage points short.
The numbers of new cases and hospitalizations have stayed relatively flat over the past several weeks. There were 221 confirmed coronavirus cases reported Wednesday and 248 patients were in the hospital.
The governor has defended his statewide indoor mask mandate at businesses and public places. He said wearing one is a necessary inconvenience until medical experts say it is safe to lift the requirement.
“This mask did help us," he said. "There are a lot of people out there that are going to say, ‘Oh, it didn’t do us any good at all.’ Please, please, give me a break.”