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Governor can’t dodge this issue

Last week, Gov. Jim Justice told our reporter, “I want all West Virginians to know just how proud I am of all of them. When it really boils down to it, they’ve done a heck of a job.” He was referring to the diligence and sacrifice of ordinary citizens in fighting the spread of COVID-19 and facing the economic challenges that have come along with it.

Yet while Justice was talking about his plan for continued efforts to fight the virus — including pushing winter sports back to March 1 — the governor’s associates at The Greenbrier were planning for the resort to play host to a New Year’s Eve shindig at which it appears only some of the guests chose to follow the guidelines.

Videos posted on the internet of the event show a closely packed room at The Greenbrier filled with many maskless guests enjoying the evening and happily avoiding social distancing guidelines.

It looks like fun. It also looks like precisely the kind of event the governor has been telling us to avoid — in fact, has been telling us we should not have — for many months now.

It is true the governor does not handle day-to-day operations at The Greenbrier. His daughter, Jill, does that for the Justice Family Group. But one would think he would be stressing to his family and colleagues that ALL the enterprises with which he is associated must remain above reproach when it comes to setting an example for Mountain State residents.

On Monday, Justice addressed questions from several reporters on the event at The Greenbrier. Instead of taking responsibility for what took place, he instead dismissed concerns that not all West Virginians are sharing equitably in the COVID pain. At one point he blamed political opponents for attempting to cause trouble. He finally said The Greenbrier should have to abide by the same rules as other businesses.

The issue here is simple. The Greenbrier, just like every other business in the state, must simply follow the guidelines. The governor’s ownership of the resort makes that even more necessary. Otherwise, people are going to believe Justice is saying one thing and doing another. If the governor has not already had a discussion with those who held the party, he should do so. West Virginians who have spent months slogging in the trenches fighting against COVID-19 should not have to do so while under the impression the people who run the governor’s businesses do not believe the rules apply to them.

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