CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday lifted a limit on the number of people who can gather for social events and tweaked the state’s face-covering mandate to allow people exercising indoors to go maskless.
The governor had already lifted most other restrictions on businesses and public life, leaving in place an indoor mask mandate.
Residents engaging in physical activity at a fitness center or other indoor space can take off their masks, but are expected to wear them at all other times, such as when resting at a gym, the governor's new executive order said.
About 38% of residents have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, while 28.4% are fully vaccinated, state data show.
Justice highlighted that over 46% of residents ages 16 and over — those currently eligible for a vaccine — have received at least one dose. He has a goal of covering 85% of senior citizens. About 75% are partially vaccinated so far, he said.
He also made a plea for younger people to get shots.
“I am urging the young people especially right now, and older people, to help me make sure that we get our 16- to 35-year-olds vaccinated,” he said at his regularly scheduled news conference.
Officials have recently urged people to step forward to receive vaccines after the pace of administration slowed down due to declining demand. They say speeding up vaccinations will prevent more infectious and deadly variants of the virus from running rampant.
“We have plenty of vaccines available,” said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state’s coronavirus task force.