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Reporter’s notebook/You’re not able to please everyone

Until recently, there hasn’t been any polling released in the race for Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.

So far, all we have is an internal poll paid for by the Justice campaign and conducted by Mark Blankenship, a long-time Republican pollster in the state. While Mark has a good reputation for accurate polls, it’s still an internal poll nonetheless.

Blankenship went on WV MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval last Wednesday to lay out two sets of numbers: Justice’s job approval rating in the state, and how he and Salango compare. According to the copy of the toplines I got a hold of, the poll included 504 likely voters contacted by cell phone and landline by live interviewers on Sept. 10, 11, and 14. The margin of error was 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Looking at job approval numbers, those polled gave Republican President Donald Trump a 62 percent approval rating, while 33 percent disapproved of Trump. As for Justice, he had a 58 percent job approval rating with 26 percent disapproving and 16 percent unsure. When you break those approval numbers down, 35 percent strongly approved of Justice and only 23 percent approved somewhat.

Respondents were then asked if the election were held today in West Virginia, who would they most likely vote for. Justice had 54 percent, Salango had 27 percent, the Mountain and Libertarian party candidates split about 9 percent of the results, and 10 percent were undecided.

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However, I’d be curious about how well Justice would poll now that the school re-entry metric has changed again now that gold has been added as an additional buffer before a county goes into orange and has to close down schools for in-person learning.

All of the changes have been well-intentioned and ultimately developed by the health officials (though obviously at the urging of Justice), but the changes should probably stop so that we can see how the metrics and color-coded map work.

Justice has compared his tweaks to the metrics to tweaks made during the Apollo 11 moon landing mission. Yes, plans do need to be flexible to an extent and the COVID-19 situation is very fluid. But there is a big difference between adjusting your course slightly versus turning your lunar lander into a lifeboat. Every change made to this system upends the lives of students, parents, teachers, school staff, and educational officials.

It’s also a lose-lose situation. You’re not going to make everyone happy right now. On one hand, you have some parents and teachers who absolutely believe being in school in-person right now as cases go up is wrong. On the other hand, you have parents who want their kids back in school or want their kids playing middle and high school football or performing in the marching band.

Regardless, there is always going to be someone unhappy right now and in one’s effort to try to please everyone, you’re bound to please no one. Take the new gold category for example. As of this writing there are six counties in the gold including Ohio County. That means they can re-open for in-person school and even play sports with certain limitations. These counties would have otherwise been in the orange, meaning they would have to close schools and limit sports to just conditioning practices.

Fantastic. They’re gold now but based on the trends I’m seeing these counties are just as likely to move into the orange again or would have moved from the yellow to gold previously. As you’re reading this, I’m sure some of those gold counties moved to orange, so they’re in the same predicament they were in before Justice added gold.

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Salango’s plan also comes with unintended consequences. Last week, Salango called for leaving school opening and closing decisions to the local level in an effort to try to scoop up some of those parents who are mad at Justice. Some of those parents were protesting outside the outside entrance near the Governor’s Office.

It’s true that counties have no control of school re-opening decisions once the county goes orange or red. But otherwise counties can choose to remain open, switch to a combination of in-person and distance learning or switch completely to distance learning as long as they’re in the green, yellow, or orange.

I asked Salango last week what full local control would look like. It wasn’t clear to me whether he meant the county school boards along with the county health department or — as a county commissioner himself — he thought that county commissions should also be involved. I think one thing would be likely: you’d just shift those protests from the Governor’s Office to the county courthouse or board of education office.

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One thing that was made very clear last week: those of you who think you’re gaming the system by not getting tested in order to skew numbers so schools can re-open are actually making the numbers worse.

The more people get tested, the more test results we have, the more we know who is actually infected, and therefore the lower the seven-day and 14-day rolling average of cases go down. If you want to know why your school has to close for in-person learning and high school football, look in the mirror. Go get tested.

(Adams is the state government reporter for Ogden Newspapers. He can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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