Another day, another government official telling Americans to follow covid-19 safety protocols that they themselves refuse to follow. White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has long urged vigilance regarding the deadly pandemic, telling CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta just last month that people should limit holiday celebrations to one’s “immediate household.”
But not to take her own advice, Birx reportedly skirted covid-19 safety protocols over Thanksgiving, retreating to one of her vacation homes in Delaware and holing up with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.
Even in Birx’s everyday life, there are challenges meeting that standard. She and her husband have a home in Washington. She also owns a home in nearby Potomac, Maryland, where her elderly parents, and her daughter and family live, and where Birx visits intermittently. In addition, the children’s other grandmother, who is 77, also regularly travels to the Potomac house and returns to her 92-year-old husband near Baltimore.
Sure, the isolation that makes up ‘best practices’ is a tough road to navigate for plenty of Americans. Many people have taken guarded risks—getting tested, traveling by car only, keeping gatherings to five people are less—but they’re still risks, and perhaps someone leading a task force fighting the spread of the pandemic should be held to a higher standard than a college student who hasn’t seen their family in months, or a nurse deciding to see their parents over Christmas. And news of Birx’s holiday travel could even jeopardize her chances of remaining on the covid-19 task force once President-elect Biden is inaugurated.
Still, Birx isn’t even the most egregious example of this hypocrisy. There appears to be a trend of politicians espousing advice that they themselves don’t follow.
Earlier this month, news broke that in early November, Austin Mayor Steve Adler hosted a 20-person outdoor wedding reception for his daughter and boarded a private jet to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico the very next day for a family vacation. There, he had the audacity to upload a Facebook video urging his constituents to “stay home if you can.”
“This is not the time to relax,” he said. “We may have to close things down if we are not careful.” No time to relax...unless you can hop in your private plane and go to Mexico, that is.
California Governor Gavin Newsom was also roundly and rightly criticized when he and his wife attended a party at the upscale restaurant, French Laundry, with a dozen friends in early November. The number of attendees from various households made the event a recipe for disaster. (Newsome apologized, admitting he “made a bad mistake” and should have “drove back” to his home.)
Funnily enough, San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at the same restaurant the very next day. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that she and seven others gathered to “celebrate socialite Gorretti Lo Lui’s 60th birthday.” It’s unclear how many households the attendees represented, but even if Breed was technically within the bounds of the state’s covid-19 safety recommendations, the optics are awful.
It’s bad enough that there are mayors, governors, and members of Congress acting as if covid-19 restrictions are worse than the virus itself, setting a poor example to their constituents in the process. But it’s arguably more contemptible to preach prudence and then defy your own message for an extravagant getaway, Michelin star meal, or family gathering a second or third home when millions of Americans have become sick and millions more are struggling in the pandemic economy.