News Analysis

DC Mayor breaks with her own travel restrictions to celebrate with Biden in Delaware

The trip, which comes as the mayor discourages interstate travel because of spikes of cases in the surrounding area, prompted criticism from residents and questions from reporters.

Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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On Monday, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) doubled down on her decision to travel Saturday to Delaware, a state with significantly higher coronavirus risk than DC, to celebrate the victory speech of Joe Biden.

The trip, which comes as the mayor discourages interstate travel because of spikes of cases in the surrounding area, prompted criticism from residents and questions from reporters.

"I cancelled Passover seders and haven't seen my friends and family in months," legal editor for Bloomberg Jon Steingart responded.

The day before the election, Bowser's office released an updated list of high risk states, which included Delaware, and stated that "…anyone coming into Washington, DC from a high-risk state (within the prior 14 days) who was traveling for non-essential activities will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days from their arrival in the District."

Bowser said that she was "very proud" to attend the celebration in Wilmington and that the trip "absolutely" qualified as "essential travel," which is exempted from her own  quarantine order, because she was conducting government business on the road. As of Tuesday, it remained unclear whether the mayor was tested for the coronavirus after returning from her trip and before appearing in public, which her office recommends for people who have come into the city from a high-risk state.

Essential travel as defined by the Mayor's order includes travel to care for vulnerable persons, to a house of worship, to an educational institution to get educational materials, and to a return home outside of DC, as well as travel required by the law, or travel within the DC region "to engage in allowable activities under that jurisdiction's laws."

During a Monday press conference Bowser responded "Absolutely," when a reporter asked her if her trip was essential. Bowser said "I do a lot of things to advance the interests of the District of Columbia. Some of them are formal and some of them are informal, but all of them are necessary." Bowser continued "We congratulated team members that we saw… I congratulated the people that I saw. I had, recently, conversations with the transition team itself."

Bowers may have an ulterior motive for the trip. She views Biden as a staunch advocate for DC statehood, a desire of many Democrats who want DC's additional likely Democrat votes for future elections. Bowers released a statement regarding the media declaring a Biden victory in the election: "And with this historic election, our fight for statehood continues with a staunch advocate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No matter the makeup of Congress next year, we will continue to make the case to the American people that 706,000 tax-paying Washingtonians deserve full access to our democracy and the right to cast our ballots for voting members of Congress."

Bowser travelled with members of her staff, including Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, conversed with members of Biden's staff and attended the outdoor speeches and posted photos of herself at the event.

Yet, Bowser said her strong recommendation remains that residents should not travel and should instead have Thanksgiving dinner for only their own household, with other relatives visiting by Zoom. DC public schools remain closed through November 9th Businesses and religious organizations in DC, remain under coronavirus restrictions limited attendance and capacity.

The mayor has also not commented on the thousands of Americans who celebrated in the streets over the weekend including DC following many media network's decision to declare Biden the winner. Social media and news outlets were flooded with pictures of revelers packed should to shoulder in close proximity to each other. Though many appeared to be wearing masks, but very few were abiding by social distancing guidelines.

On Sunday, Bowers even encouraged those who voted in the election to get tested for COVID, but did not recommend abiding by social distancing guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Delaware's average case rate per 100,000 residents is currently 24 new cases daily, while the DC's is 14, after a rise in cases locally which began in October.

Bowers was not alone in defying her own coronavirus orders. Over the weekend New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shared selfies with other New Yorkers in large crowds, wearing masks but not socially distanced. De Blasio has been frequently criticized, especially by the Jewish community, for targeting citizens but violating his own lockdowns.

In April, De Blasio even announced that the NYPD was breaking up the funeral of a Brooklyn rabbi that attracted hundreds. In October de Blasio insisted New Yorkers "not travel out of state for the holidays," claiming it could put the city at risk.

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer seen mask-less telling a crowd, "Now we take Georgia, then we change the world!

Schumer had previously said in a July tweet "President Trump can't even model good behavior and consistently encourage Americans to wear a mask. Every time he takes the podium, he's a threat to public health. We are living through one the greatest failures of presidential leadership in our country's history."

As thousands of supporters gathered in large groups in cities across the country violating social-distancing guidelines rules to celebrate news of a media projected victory, Biden did not comment or condemn the behavior  and instead called for "unity" as he addressed supporters Saturday night.

According to Fox News the irony was not lost on Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia election official who during a Monday press conference took a jab at the double standard among Biden supporters, quipping: "They're ecstatic. They're in the streets partying. I guess COVID's over."

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