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Justice, state leaders celebrate West Virginia’s 158th birthday

CHARLESTON –Standing on the front steps of the State Capitol Building Sunday, Gov. Jim Justice, state officials and lawmakers joined the public in celebrating West Virginia’s founding while also celebrating success at controlling COVID-19 spread.

“The sun is shining beyond belief,” Justice said to the gathered crowd, some sitting in seats under the hot sun in Lincoln Plaza on steps overlooking the Kanawha River, and many others sitting under the shaded trees flanking the plaza. “The sun is shining in West Virginia because of you.”

Justice praised state residents on West Virginia’s 158th birthday for staying strong during the COVID-19 pandemic, paid tribute to the more than 2,863 coronavirus deaths, and rewarded several West Virginians for getting their COVID-19 vaccines in the first week of the state’s vaccine incentive lottery.

“You had to show your mettle in every way,” Justice said. “You had to step up and you brought us through this. West Virginians from far and near, I congratulate you with all my soul. We’ve still got a ways to go…we don’t want to drop our guard and we sure don’t want to have one of these variants that’s been around hit us in a really bad way.”

The first $1 million drawing took place with Karen Foley of Mineral Wells receiving a giant check Sunday, along with Rebecca Osborne of Hurricane and Elizabeth Ball of Nitro winning a full college scholarship to any public in-state four-year institution.

Two custom-outfitted trucks were rewarded to Melissa Spivy of Vienna and Ralph Paugh of Parkersburg. Other prizes given away Sunday included weekend vacations at state parks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and custom hunting shotguns.

Weekly drawings –including for $1 million — will take place until Wednesday, Aug. 4, culminating with a grand prize of $1.588 million and $588,000 for the runner-up.

More than 61.5% of eligible West Virginians age 12 and older have either one dose of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as of Thursday’s report from the Department of Health and Human Resources. More than 85% of those most at risk-age 65 and older -are partially vaccinated, accounting for the collapse of active cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Justice announced Sunday that the indoor mask mandate was officially lifted for all residents. It was previously lifted for vaccinated individuals.

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