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Governor reiterates “no mandates” on national TV

Published: Oct. 3, 2021 at 5:53 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2021 at 8:52 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - In countless briefings during the past month, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has stated he will not re-impose a mask mandate he lifted at the start of summer, and won’t require vaccinations.

He repeated it Sunday to a national television audience.

He lifted a mask mandate in June that had been in effect since late 2020-even earlier than that for people in public buildings. He has also used his thrice weekly briefings to insist people get vaccinated. He extended his “Do It for Babydog” vaccination lottery, set to end in August, into October to encourage shots in arms.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Justice was pressed by moderator Margaret Brennan about why he isn’t issuing mandates-in particular, why he isn’t mandating vaccines.

“Now Margaret, you know, you don’t have to come in so hot,” the governor said, apparently frustrated at the questioning. “You guys asked me to come, you know, but Margaret to bottom line. I truly, I truly believe that the mandates only divide us and only divide us more. From the stand point of mandates I don’t believe in imposing upon our freedoms over and over and over. And I’ve said that over. I don’t know how many times I’ve got to say it.”

When the vaccines were first introduced last December, Justice pushed for vaccinations of elderly residents, particularly those in nursing homes. The effort, when shots were still difficult to come by, catapulted West Virginia into the national spotlight as a front-runner in vaccination rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s now last in the percentage of residents fully vaccinated, although the state Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus website says 70 per cent of people age 50 and older are fully vaccinated.

On a related note, West Virginia’s attorney general has issued an opinion defining how local health boards can issue mask orders.

Patrick Morrisey says local health boards can issue mask orders, but individual health officers can not do so.

Morrisey says West Virginia’s distinction between local health boards and officers reflects America’s constitutional system of separating legislative, executive and judicial powers.

He was asked for an opinion by a local health department whose officer had state a mask order would be issued for local schools.

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