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Why do Democratic leaders keep ignoring their own COVID-19 rules?

Faced with rising COVID-19 cases, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted at the end of November to prohibit outdoor dining countywide. The ban goes much further than nearly any other in the U.S., where outdoor dining is seen as a mostly safe way to keep restaurants afloat. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted in favor of it and then went out for one last meal before restaurants were forced to shutter their doors.

Kuehl wasn’t violating the order and a spokesperson said she ate at the restaurant, Il Forno in Santa Monica, because she was “saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue” as a result of pandemic restrictions. She took “appropriate precautions,” the spokesperson said. But if dining out was so unsafe that it had to be banned, what appropriate precautions could there be?

Austin, Texas mayor Steve Adler told people to limit themselves to gatherings of no more than ten and stay home whenever possible. Then, he attended a wedding with twice the number of allowable guests before jetting off to Mexico for vacation.

Mayors in San Jose and San Francisco admitted they violated their own instructions, with San Jose’s Sam Liccardo attending a multi-household Thanksgiving and San Francisco’s London Breed joining seven others at a high-class restaurant for a sixtieth birthday party (Breed has justified her visit to the restaurant by saying she was “support[ing] them financially”).

If “San Francisco mayor attends high-class restaurant” sounds faintly familiar, its because California’s governor (a former mayor of San Francisco) has basically ignored every COVID-19 restriction he’s issued, including attending an event at that same restaurant a week earlier. Oh, and another San Franciscan, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, violated COVID-19 restrictions for a haircut in September. What is wrong with San Franciscan politicians?

What, indeed, is wrong with Democratic leaders right now? COVID-19 has been ravaging the United States and its hard to imagine they don’t think it is a deadly virus like some Republicans do. But by ignoring their own advice, they’re making it hard to persuade people that COVID-19 is a real threat. If it’s so bad, skeptics say, why is Nancy Pelosi ignoring it? Why is Gavin Newsom ignoring it?

How do you tell a protester that we need to shut down restaurants to stay safe? They inevitably counter with the economic impacts, and here are California politicians who seem to be agreeing: one last meal at my favorite Italian bistro, one last meal that calls into question the validity of the shutdowns.

To be absolutely clear, shutdowns are vital. COVID-19 is the most deadly virus to hit the United States in decades. We have to continue to take it seriously until a vaccine can be widely distributed – something that will come with its own headaches, especially if political leaders take the same approach to getting vaccinated that they’ve taken to following lockdown restrictions.


Image credit: mikeledray / Shutterstock.com. Used under license.

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