CHARLESTON, W.Va. – At the beginning of his virtual COVID-19 briefing, Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice deviated from his normal routine of reading the latest COVID-19 deaths in the state. Instead, Justice spent 20 minutes talking about the fallout he’s received since issuing his updated mask mandate on Friday and being photographed outside the Marshall University football game, without a mask on.
Justice said that much of the complaining about the mask order is being driven by a fringe candidate who ran for governor. Justice declined to name the man, but described him as a “child.”
The candidate also posted Justice’s personal cell phone number on Facebook, leading the governor to have to change his number. Justice said the number change is preventing “good people” from getting a hold of him.
“We need to stop listening to this noise from people who want to be relevant,” Justice said.
“To believe that we are stripping away your constitutional freedoms, it’s ridiculous, it’s not even worth talking about, or the next thing they’re going to do is they’re going to come and get our guns, which is absolutely preposterous, beyond belief,” Justice said, describing complaints he’s received.
The governor clarified his comments on what legal action can be taken against people who don’t follow the mask mandate, explaining that he “cannot in any way mandate a criminal crime,” but is confident in advice from his legal counsel, that it is up to law enforcement officers discretion to charge people with trespassing or obstructing justice if they don’t either wear a mask or leave the premises.
“I don’t like ’em, I don’t wanna to wear them. I don’t like the mask anymore than you do. I will not allow people to just decide they’re not going to wear a mask. What right do they have to infect others or possibly infect others? What right do they have to just do that because that’s what they want to do?” Justice said while citing a statistic that 96% of the people in West Virginia believe in wearing masks.
“Without any question, I strongly urge us all to wear a mask. That’s all we’ve got to go on right now. I don’t how that is so difficult to do. What is the downside of wearing a mask?” Justice said.
“I need you to wear your mask, I need you to just wear your mask. I know it’s a pain in the butt. I need your help, I really need your help,” Gov. Justice pleaded.
To go along with the updated mask order, state officials have put together an online toolkit where businesses and individuals can download posters and social media graphics to alert people to the requirements of the mandate.
Responding to a call from the West Virginia Education Association to switch to all virtual learning through the end of the 2020, Gov. Justice said it should be considered and that discussions about going that route have been going on for several weeks. The governor also countered that there are issues involving daycare and how well virtual learning is actually going, to consider before making that decision.
Talking about his time spent at the Marshall football game Saturday, Justice explained that he had a mask on “100% of the time” at the game. He said that he was outside of the stadium, in a tent with the national championship trophy, and the people who brought it asked him to take his mask off for a photograph. “You don’t need to send that(the photo) to me anymore,” Justice said. He’d do it again for Marshall University, the governor continued.
Combatting some of the complaints made about his mask order, the governor also spent some time listing his political beliefs:
“I am Donald Trump’s best friend, I absolute stand with guns and for life and no new taxes and balanced budgets, for our vets, for ‘Jim’s Dream’ to combat this drug situation, for more jobs and for God.”
Talking about the presidential election, Justice said he wants all votes to be counted. Gov. Justice also said that he will try to work with Vice President Biden and Kamala Harris.