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Adjutant General Hoyer to retire, take COVID-related VP post at WU; Justice comments on mask dispute with Morrisey

MORGANTOWN — Adjutant General James Hoyer will be stepping down to take a COVID-19-related post at WVU after the New Year.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the transition during his Monday briefing. He also spent some time elaborating on his mask order-enforcement disagreement with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Hoyer has spent 40 years in uniform, Justice said, and almost 10 years as state adjutant general. Hoyer told him that when he retires from the military next year, he wants to go on serving the state, remaining as part of the COVID response leadership and preparing the state for vaccine distribution.

Justice added that Hoyer has also played an economic development role in the state, playing a key part in bringing Virgin Hyperloop and in repurposing defunct surface mines.

So they worked with WVU President Gordon Gee, Justice said, to appoint Hoyer as a senior associate vice president. There, Hoyer will continue to lead the joint inter-agency task force on vaccination and work on economic development projects.

“He has and continues to be a greet friend, a great leader, a great, great person for the sate of West Virginia,” Justice said. He is appointing Brigadier General Bill Crane as the new adjutant genera effective Jan. 4.

Hoyer recalled three meetings with Justice where Justice conveyed to him the need to take care of the people of West Virginia. He told Justice at the briefing, “While I may be changing uniforms, my intent is to still to be with you to take care fo the people of West Virginia and figure out how to do more.”

Hoyer explained he turns 60 next spring and that’s the mandatory retirement age for general officers without a waiver. He’ll be relocating to Morgantown to take up the new post.

Mask order dispute

Last week, Justice expanded his mask order to eliminate the possibility of social distancing as a reason not to wear a mask indoors. He said that while he can’t mandate enforcement, a police offier could charge a person with obstruction of justice.

On Wednesday, Morrisey said on Facebook he won’t support enforcement. “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.”

Justice followed that announcement with a statement saying he was saddened and disheartened by Morrisey’s stance.

Asked about the dispute on Monday, Justice said he and Morrisey are and will remain friends. But, “I was damn disappointed. I think it’s a crying shame that he may have overlooked the severity of this situation.”

Given that 95 percent of the state’s residents support mask wearing, Justice said, Morrisey’s comments only create division. “That’s the last thing we need to be doing now. … If you want to just walk over a cliff yourself, more power to you.”

But don’t open the door for others to harm themselves in the name of liberty, Justice said.

“It came off to me as even degrading to our police,” he said. They’re not running around jailing people.

“Are you going to listen to the politicians or listen to the experts,” he asked. “If this didn’t have politics smell all over it, then I don’t know my name. … I stand rock solid for every right that you have.”

Morrisey responded to Justice’s statements wiht a press release later Monday.

“No one is having a dispute about whether we should wear masks and take all precautions possible to stop this deadly virus,” he said. “I encourage our citizens to take such precautions. Anyone suggesting otherwise is not being honest with you. As I said on Nov. 18, we should all ‘socially distance, wear coverings, keep good hygiene, minimize personal contact, and stay away from immunocompromised individuals, who may be particularly susceptible to the virus.’
“We need to both protect the public health and our constitutional rights,” Morrisey continued. “I believe in West Virginians and have faith that our citizens don’t need threats of jail time to convince them to do the right thing and pull together to tackle this virus. Heavy-handed threats of criminal penalties are not the way forward, especially through an executive order that the Legislature has not approved.”

As people prepare for a more limited Thanksgiving celebration, with state and federal recommendations to avoid travel and gatherings with those outside the immediate household, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad added a warning about church services.

With 22 outbreaks across the state, she said, it’s now recommended that people avoid group singing in church, as singing propels the droplets that spread COVID.

Instead, she said, alternative recommendations include having a single singer at the front of the church, having a small group of three or four sing behind a Plexiglas barrier, offer prerecorded music, have services in cars. And always wear masks.

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