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West Virginia governor doesn’t foresee reviving mask mandate

July 16, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he does not have plans to bring back restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the more contagious delta variant begins spreading in the state.

“From the standpoint of bringing back the mask or whatever like that, again I pray to God above that we never have to consider such a thing ever again,” the Republican governor said at a news conference. “But we’ve always got to watch.”

He took a shot at Los Angeles County, where officials have reinstated an indoor mask requirement in the nation’s largest county. “We’re not Los Angeles. Thank God. And boy, do I ever mean that.”

There are 19 confirmed cases of the delta variant in West Virginia so far, according to state data.

“It’s moving really slowly ... It’s coming, and you absolutely need to be vaccinated,” he said.

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West Virginia lags behind all five bordering states in total vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people, according to federal data. The more transmissible delta variant is leading to a nationwide rise in cases again after months of decline.

State data show that 58.2% of all residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Justice set a new goal this week of vaccinating 85% of residents 50 and older, a group that currently has 81.5% coverage. He also wants 90% of those age 65 and older to receive a shot, while 88.7% currently have one.