Austin mayor vacationed in Mexico while urging residents to stay home

Steve Adler warned residents in video that now was 'not the time to relax’ while on trip

Louise Hall
Thursday 03 December 2020 11:22
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Gavin Newsom apologises for French Laundry dinner
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Austin Mayor Steve Adler was on holiday in Mexico while urging people to stay home amid surging coronavirus cases in Texas.

During the trip in November, first reported by The Austin American-Statesman, Mr Adler is said to have recorded a video in which he told residents back home that now was “not the time to relax".

The vacation to Cabo San Lucas, in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, came after the mayor hosted an outdoor wedding and reception with 20 guests for his daughter, according to the newspaper.

At the wedding, guests had to take a rapid Covid-19 test and maintain social distancing but the mayor said all guests were “probably not" wearing masks that had been provided all the time.

Mr Adler, a Democrat, told the newspaper his actions did not violate his own regulations.

“There was no recommendation for people not to travel during that period of time,” Mr Adler told The American-Statesman. 

“Someone could look at me and say, ‘He travelled’. But what they could not say is that I travelled at a time when I was telling other people not to travel.”

While in Mexico on 9 November, Mr Adler posted a daily Facebook livestream where he warned about the rising number of cases in Texas and did not say he was on vacation.

“We need to stay home if you can,” he said. "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.”

After the mayor returned from the trip, local health officials elevated the city's Covid-19 guidance ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday to Stage 4, which discourages nonessential travel.

More than 1.29 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Texas since the outbreak gripped the country in March, leading to the deaths of more than 22,000 people.

Mr Adler is just one in a line of public officials who have seemingly flouted their own coronavirus guidance in recent weeks to attend social gatherings.

California Governor Gavin Newsom faced backlash after he was caught taking part in a birthday celebration of more than 12 people at the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley.

The governor later apologised for the “bad mistake”, on 6 November which saw people from several different households attend the restaurant.

“You can quibble about the guidelines, et cetera, et cetera, but the spirit of what I'm preaching all the time was contradicted and I got to own that,” he said.

San Fransisco Mayor London Breed attended a gathering with seven other people one day later at the same restaurant in Napa Valley even though California  “strongly discouraged” social gatherings limited them to three households.

A spokesperson for Ms Breed emphasised that indoor and outdoor dining were allowed in Napa and San Francisco counties at the time of Ms Breed’s dinner.

“Now, with case rates rising, and Bay Area counties moving back into the purple tier, she is once again limiting her actions and is encouraging all San Franciscans to do the same,” Andy Lynch told The Independent.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also flew to Mississippi to visit family for Thanksgiving despite sending messages on social media and to city staff asking them to avoid traveling for the holiday.

Experts have warned that the actions of high-profile politicians in defiance of their own recommendations could have a serious knock-on effect on the wider public’s adherence to regulations.

“Any increase in cynicism about our political leaders right now can potentially be costly,” Jason McDaniel, an associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University told The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Our elected leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. The mayor and the governor before her failed to meet that higher standard.”

Reporting by the Associated Press

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