The mayor of Austin, Texas, is the latest public official to break from their own COVID-19 recommendations, telling residents last month to stay home while he hosted a wedding and vacationed in Mexico.
Democratic Mayor Steve Adler boarded a private jet with several others in early November to vacation for a week at a family timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, according to the Austin American-Statesman, which broke the story on Wednesday. The trip reportedly came one day after Adler hosted an outdoor wedding with 20 guests for his daughter at a time when health officials were urgently warning of a COVID-19 surge.
On Nov. 9 ― one night into his trip, according to the American-Statesman ― Adler posted a Facebook video addressing Austin residents about curbing the spread of the virus.
“We need to stay home if you can,” he said in the video. “This is not the time to relax. We are going to be looking really closely. … We may have to close things down if we are not careful.”
Adler did not disclose in the video that he was in Mexico, a country that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically advised Americans ahead of Thanksgiving not to travel to because of the spike in infections.
According to Travis County data, the Austin area saw more new COVID-19 cases in November than in the two previous months combined. The county reported 6,234 new cases last month, compared with 2,627 in October and 2,998 in September.
A week after Adler returned from his vacation, health officials raised Austin’s coronavirus alert level to Stage 4, which includes recommending all residents avoid nonessential travel. At the time of the mayor’s vacation, Austin was in Stage 3, which recommended that residents avoid gatherings of more than 10 and that higher-risk people avoid nonessential travel.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. He did tell the American-Statesman that guests at his daughter’s wedding were “probably not” wearing their masks all the time and that he does not believe he took a COVID-19 test upon returning to Austin but had “generally quarantined.”
“Every day since March, I repeat that being home is the safest place for people to be. Only at our most trying moments, like around Thanksgiving, have I asked people not to travel as part of extra precautions. It is safest to stay home,” Adler told the newspaper on Wednesday. “However, we aren’t asking people to never venture out. We ask everyone to be as safe as possible when they do.”
After the American-Statesman published its story, Adler gave another statement saying, “I regret this travel,” adding that he fears his vacation could be used to justify risky behavior during the holidays.
Adler is not the only public official to recently display their hypocrisy in following COVID-19 guidelines. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a Democrat, publicly apologized after flying to Mississippi to see family after telling residents not to travel for Thanksgiving.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, faced widespread backlash after he was caught attending a maskless dinner party with multiple households at the upscale French Laundry restaurant on Nov. 6 ― going against his own COVID-19 safety recommendations for the residents of California. One day later, Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed found herself in the same hot water when she dined with at least seven others at the same Napa County restaurant at a time when her own city banned restaurants hosting groups larger than six indoors or outdoors unless they were from the same household.
Breed and Adler both responded to the backlash over their trips by stressing they didn’t formally break any COVID-19 rules, which is true ― all three public officials technically did not violate any restrictions set in place at the time in the county they were at. But at a time when Americans are feeling increasingly fatigued from COVID-19 restrictions and rising infection rates, it’s more important now than before for elected leaders to practice what they preach so that residents can better trust their decisions to implement necessary pandemic orders.
“Any increase in cynicism about our political leaders right now can potentially be costly,” Jason McDaniel, associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. “Our elected leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. The mayor and the governor before her failed to meet that higher standard.”
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