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Keep WVSTRONG, Gov. Justice

Early in the coronavirus epidemic, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice ordered what turned out to be an important public health measure. He ought to extend it.

Justice’s order was that from June 1 through Aug. 31, Mountain State residents could be given 30% discounts on lodge rooms, cabins and campsites at state parks and other recreational areas. His reasoning was that many people in the state needed or would need a break from battling COVID-19. Giving them a break on a few days of R&R could keep them inside West Virginia.

We know now that the governor was right. A significant number of COVID-19 outbreaks in our state have resulted from people vacationing elsewhere, then bringing the virus home with them. It is particularly unfortunate that a popular destination for many West Virginians is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which is a COVID-19 hot spot. Horry County, where Myrtle Beach is located, has recorded slightly more cases of the disease and slightly more deaths than our entire state.

It appears Justice’s plan has helped keep some West Virginians home to take advantage of wonderful rest and relaxation opportunities in relatively safe surroundings. Compare Tucker County, where both Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls state parks are located, with Myrtle Beach. The beach county has had 8,889 cases of COVID-19 and 169 deaths from it.

Tucker County’s record is 11 cases and not a single death.

Or look at Pipestem State Park, on the border between Mercer and Summers counties. Mercer has had 18 COVID-19 deaths, all of them, sadly, at a Princeton nursing home. Summers County has recorded no virus fatalities.

Who knows how many Mountain State families have skipped dangerous beach vacations or trips to other COVID-19 hot spots and instead taken advantage of the governor’s offer? I’d be willing to bet it has saved lives.

It is very attractive. Using Justice’s 30% WVSTRONG discount, combined with the 10% discount for being a senior citizen or a veteran, can get you a weekend in the Blackwater Falls lodge for less than $160. Prefer a small cabin at Holly River State Park? One night during the week can be booked for less than $55, believe it or not.

Justice’s initiative has benefits other than keeping people from catching COVID-19. It is introducing people to the wonderful recreational opportunities at state parks. In some cases, it is reminding them and making them wonder why on earth they ever left the state for vacations. That will pay off for the parks in the future.

Renew WVSTRONG, governor. It’s good for West Virginians.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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