The Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas, encouraged city residents to stay at home when possible and avoid letting their guard down amidst the pandemic in a video message that he recorded while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
According to KVUE, Mayor Steve Adler traveled to Mexico on a private jet with seven other people in early November after attending his daughter’s wedding two days earlier. While the wedding was outdoors, 20 people attended the ceremony at a time when the city suggested people not gather with more than 10 others at a time, even for low-risk individuals, reports the news agency.
That said, Adler didn’t break any of the city’s orders or Governor Greg Abbott’s coronavirus orders.
During the pre-recorded video message, however, the Austin mayor called attention to the rise in coronavirus cases, saying that “everybody has to be aware of that and we need to stay home if you can. Do everything you can to try and keep the numbers down.”
“This is not the time to relax,” said Adler, who warned of potential closures.
The Statesman reports that Adler’s travel party formed a “COVID pod,” in which they all agreed to the same safety measures. The Austin mayor also told the news agency that everyone at his daughter’s wedding testing negative for coronavirus on a rapid test, and that he never told people to avoid traveling ahead of his own trip.
“There was no recommendation for people not to travel during that period of time,” said Adler. “Someone could look at me and say, ‘He traveled.’ But what they could not say is that I traveled at a time when I was telling other people not to travel.”
The day after Adler left for his trip, Dr. Mark Escott, interim health director, told the public to start decreasing “those travels outside of your home that are not necessary.”
The Austin mayor’s office told KVUE in a statement:
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. Several weeks ago, when my daughter cancelled her planned wedding to replace it with a COVID appropriate more private ceremony and when my family traveled, we consulted with health authorities and worked hard to model the kind of behavior I’ve asked of the community. We were in a lower risk “Yellow” level than now. It is always safest to stay home. However, we aren’t asking people never to venture out. We ask everyone to be as safe as possible in what they do. My family and I are no exception and we’ll continue to do as I ask of our community. During Thanksgiving and as anticipated for Christmas and the New Year, we should all be especially mindful.
After issuing his first statement, Adler issued a subsequent statement saying that he regretted his travel: “I wouldn’t travel now, didn’t over Thanksgiving, and won’t over Christmas. But my fear is that this travel, even having happened during a safer period, could be used as some justification for risky behavior. In hindsight, and even though it violated no order, it set a bad example for which I apologize.”
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) December 2, 2020
Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock landed in hot water after he asked that people “avoid travel, if you can” while he himself was flying to visit his wife and daughter for Thanksgiving. He later acknowledged his holiday travel in a statement.
“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel,” said Hancock, later concluding: “I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”