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Justice criticizes Morrisey for Facebook post regarding mask mandate enforcement

MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice issued a press release Wednesday evening criticizing Attorney General for apparently opposing mask wearing in a Wednesday afternoon Facebook post.

“I was saddened this evening to see the statement that Attorney General Morrisey posted to his Facebook” Justice said. “With the overwhelming majority of West Virginians in favor of wearing masks, it is extremely disheartening that he doesn’t also strongly support the wearing of masks, especially after all our medical experts on a state and federal level have made it abundantly clear that wearing a mask works to stop this virus.”

Morrisey’s post is headed “Important Update” and leads by agreeing with Justice doesn’t have the right to create new criminal offenses in order to put teeth into the statewide mask mandate or to enforce other executive orders.

He says, “During this pandemic, I will continue to ensure that any efforts to use the criminal code for any purpose are not applied in an arbitrary, improper, or heavy handed manner. Let’s be clear: no one is going to send people to jail and that simply should not be occurring with respect to the Governor’s executive orders.”

Morrisey referenced the case of a Berkeley County barbershop owner who was arrested in April for refusing to close his “nonessential” shop; Morrisey opposed charging the man with the crime of obstructing justice.

Morrisey tempered any apparent opposition to masks with this comment: “This is a serious virus and everyone must do their part to protect the public. Socially distance, wear coverings, keep good hygiene, minimize personal contact, and stay away from immunocompromised individuals, who may be particularly susceptible to the virus.”

He closed, “Act responsibly and know we will use our constitutional authority to protect your freedoms and the due process you are afforded to the fullest extent the law allows.”

Morrisey’s post drew 127 comments – for and against mask-wearing, some from legislators – and 234 shares.

Justice, though, apparently wasn’t appeased by Morrisey’s comments on protecting the public. He said, “West Virginians have entrusted me to make the right decisions in the best interest of our health and prosperity. I will work tirelessly to keep our businesses open, our people working, and our schools open. Wearing our masks, while inconvenient, will help. I consider it an honor to be in this position. I have always done what I believe in my heart is best for all West Virginians and I promise you I will not stop until we stop this pandemic.”

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