On December 23, Governor Jim Justice pleaded with West Virginians to follow safety protocols during the holidays.
“Listen to me: You’ve got to be super careful with your family right now. Super careful. And, absolutely, as sad and as terrible as it may be, you may need to really not bring your family together, and, if you do, you really need to have masks on—everybody—and you need to not be there very long.”
It was a heartfelt and practical pitch from Justice, who has demonstrated leadership and made tough decisions since the outbreak of the virus here to try to keep West Virginians safe. That is why the emergence of a video on social media showing a New Year’s Eve bash at the Greenbrier is so disturbing.
In the video you can see people crowded together at a party at the famed resort. Many are wearing masks, but not everyone. The event was apparently part of the three-day long New Year’s celebration that culminated in New Year’s Casino Club party and midnight champagne toast and balloon drop.
Senator Bill Ihlenfeld (D-Ohio) posted the video and tweeted, “Partygoers rang in the new year last night at Governor Justice’s resort, with COVID protocols apparently optional. Meanwhile, the Governor won’t let high school sports begin until March 1. Kids continue to sacrifice while adults celebrate.”
Ihlenfeld further tweeted, “The Greenbrier gala was problematic for a number of reasons, primarily due to the danger it posed to public health, but also because it sent a message that rules don’t apply to everyone. I’m hopeful we will do better in 2021.”
Partygoers rang in the new year last night at Governor Justice’s resort, with COVID protocols apparently optional. Meanwhile, the Governor won’t let high school sports begin until March 1. Kids continue to sacrifice while adults celebrate. pic.twitter.com/YhypNKGGk0
— William Ihlenfeld II (@IhlenfeldWV) January 2, 2021
The video also sparked criticism from Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom. “Our bars and restaurants have been singled out by the Governor in our county… BUT, it is permitted in his establishment… Please explain and clarify to our citizens about how the rules do not apply to EVERY county?” Bloom posed in a letter to the Governor.
Justice’s daughter, Dr. Jillean Justice, is president of the resort. However, according to a news release in 2016, Jim Justice retained the title of owner and CEO. It is unlikely Jim Justice is involved in the day-to-day activities of the resort, but the Greenbrier is still his property, and therefore he bears some responsibility for what happens there.
For the most part, West Virginians have tried hard to follow the health and safety guidelines issued by Justice, his Covid-19 task force and local health officials. Front line health care workers have been pushed to exhaustion as they care for the sick, while trying to avoid the virus themselves.
We have heard over and over about the collective power of individual West Virginians to make good decisions and keep the virus at bay, protecting ourselves and our neighbors. Unfortunately, the gala at Justice’s resort sends the opposite message and rings in the New Year with tone deaf hypocrisy.