There are many husbands and fathers in the city of Denver, but only one gets to ignore COVID-19 guidelines because of his role in his family.
That’s the message Denver Mayor Michael Hancock sent on Wednesday when he defied his own advice that people should stay home during U.S. Thanksgiving due to the coronavirus.
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The city’s Democratic mayor urged citizens to “avoid unnecessary travel” in a tweet early Wednesday, then hopped on a plane 30 minutes later to go see his wife and daughter in Mississippi, local station 9 News reports.
He later offered an apology and a defence of his actions on Twitter, sparking anger and accusations of hypocrisy.
“I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel,” he said in a statement after arriving at his holiday destination.
“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
Hancock also apologized “to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel.”
The mayor had urged Denver residents to avoid unnecessary travel throughout the week, and issued a new Thanksgiving plea on Twitter Wednesday morning.
“Avoid travel, if you can,” his advice tweet read. It included an infographic with other recommendations, including a plea to “stay home and stay in touch with friends/family by phone or online.”
Hancock’s daughter recently moved to Mississippi for a job, and the mayor was travelling there to see her and his wife, according to his statement.
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He claims that it was “safer” for him to make a solo trip for the gathering, rather than have the two of them fly to Denver. He did not explain why it was essential that they all be in the same place for Thanksgiving after he urged others to sacrifice that closeness for the greater good.
Social media users shredded Hancock for the move, with thousands blasting him in the comments.
“This decision was irresponsible and felt like the rules didn’t apply to you,” one Twitter user wrote.
“The hypocrisy is deafening,” another added.
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One woman said she was sacrificing plans with her parents and her husband because of public guidelines, and was upset that Hancock did not do the same.
“Your only option was to eat alone, like so many of us are doing. See your family on Zoom. Resign.”
Another user suggested that it was an empty apology.
“Dude, you’re sorry because you got caught,” he wrote.
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The incident came as COVID-19 cases have surged in Colorado and across much of the country amid a holiday second wave of the virus.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has also urged citizens to keep their gatherings small and avoid unnecessary travel.
Polis went into quarantine on Wednesday after coming in contact with someone who had the virus, although he says he recently tested negative.
Hancock has been mayor of Denver since 2011. He was elected to a third term in office last year.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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