WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — West Virginia health officials are investigating a New Year’s Eve gala at The Greenbrier resort after an online video showed revelers without face coverings and appearing to violate COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Reports indicate that around 200 people were packed wall-to-wall in an upper lobby at the resort. They were not wearing face coverings, which are required in public areas under an order issued last summer by Gov. Jim Justice.
The people in the video were holding drinks in their hands and screaming with excitement while waiting for the ball to come down signifying the beginning of 2021.
Justice, who owns the resort, fielded several questions about the video during his Monday COVID-19 media briefing. He initially dismissed the controversy as a “political ploy” being orchestrated by Democrat senators whom he did not identify.
Justice later denied having first-hand knowledge of happenings at the resort on New Year’s Eve. He told reporters he was at home in bed watching the ball drop.
“I don’t go there very often in the first place and I surely don’t go to the New Year’s Eve celebration,” he said.
The governor said that people in management positions at The Greenbrier “are absolutely breaking their necks to be as cautious as they can possibly be. In the video, I don’t know what happened.”
The Greenbrier employs about 1,500 people and Justice called the controversy festering over the video “a slap in the face.”
But he said that if The Greenbrier is “making mistakes,” then it deserves a negative outcome.
“I don’t want anything to hide behind. If they had their masks off, they shouldn’t have had their masks off, period,” Justice said.
Before taking office as governor in 2017, Justice resigned from all the executive positions he held at his businesses. He placed his daughter, Jill, in charge of The Greenbrier.