Local Officials Face Backlash for COVID Hypocrisy
Protesters gathered outside the home of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl this week to demand an end to public health restrictions and the ban on outdoor dining in particular. Kuehl became the focal point of ire after it was revealed that she dined outdoors in Santa Monica on Nov. 24, hours before she voted in favor of the ban.
“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,” Kuehl said before casting her vote. She headed to Il Forno Trattoria that night for dinner. The ban took effect the following day.
“Supervisor Kuehl has eaten at Il Forno virtually every night for many years, and on the last night that it was permitted by county health orders, she dined there alfresco, taking appropriate precautions as recommended by the Department of Public Health,” a spokesman has confirmed in a statement. “Since the restaurant patio ban went into effect, she is doing everything she can to continue to support the restaurant, ordering takeout nightly. She hopes other county residents will take similar steps to support their favorite restaurants while we get through this challenging period.”
That explanation did not satisfy critics.
Similar controversies are now brewing in northern California. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has apologized for attending a Thanksgiving dinner where five households were present. And on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Mayor London Breed attended a partially-indoor dinner at the French Laundry in Napa County the night after Gavin Newsom’s now infamous soirée at the same restaurant. Mayor Breed banned all indoor dining in San Francisco three days later.
These inicidents aren't just creating headaches for the politicians involved. They're also adding to growing confusion about the logic behind certain health restrictions, giving ammunition to COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and deniers, and undermining a delicate public messaging campaign.