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Kanawha Health Dept. Director: ‘We Do Need Masking’

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June Leffler / WVPB
Dr. Sherri Young prepares COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in February 2021.

After describing the severity of the current delta COVID-19 surge at a Wednesday press conference, Kanawha Charleston Health Department Interim Director Dr. Sherri Young spoke out publicly in support of “vaccinations and masks.”

Current COVID-19 caseloads and hospitalizations are just shy of their height, which occurred last January. Active cases in West Virginia have risen 50 percent in one week. They’ve increased tenfold in the past five weeks.

“This is an opportunity for officials to say, ‘Look, we understand public health,” Young said. “The way out of this pandemic is to wear your mask and get vaccinated. That's clear. And so yes, I support both vaccinations and masks.”

Young, who spoke at a Wednesday morning press briefing attended by Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper, stopped short of saying she would like to see mask mandates at the local or state level.

Other doctors in West Virginia have been more direct. The West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association sent a letter to Gov. Jim Justice Tuesday to provide “clear leadership” in response to the pandemic, including a statewide mask mandate.

Dr. Michael Robie, president of WVOMA and medical director of the Putnam County Health Department, signed off on the letter.

Justice has said for weeks that a mask mandate is always on the table, but he has yet to issue any order.

“I do not believe we need to move,” Justice said at his press briefing Wednesday.

Goodwin would not say whether she supports a mask mandate at the local or state level. She is pushing the Charleston city council to approve a $500 COVID-19 vaccine incentive for city employees.

“Because you got the vaccination, you're keeping our hospital rates down, you're keeping our emergency responders time and their calls down, which is essential right now, especially when we're seeing a surge,” Goodwin said.

Masks are required in Monongalia County buildings and in city buildings in Huntington.

Vaccine clinics will be held in Charleston Sept. 2 at the Schoenbaum Center from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sept. 5 at the Kanawha Charleston Health Department from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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