Denver’s mayor apologized on Wednesday for traveling out of state to visit his family for Thanksgiving, in a statement that came on the same day that he urged residents to “stay home as much as you can.” Health experts have repeatedly asked Americans not to travel for the holiday, warning that it could lead to a severe spike in coronavirus cases and further tax an already overburdened healthcare system.
“I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration,” Democratic Mayor Michael Hancock wrote on Twitter. “What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.”
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” he added. “As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel.”
Hancock said he made the decision as “a husband and father,” and asked the public to forgive him for decisions “that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
Hancock’s office told CBS Denver that “As he has shared, the Mayor is not hosting his traditional large family dinner this year, but instead traveling alone to join his wife and daughter where the three of them will celebrate Thanksgiving at her residence instead of having them travel back to Denver. Upon return, he will follow all necessary health and safety guidance and quarantine.”
The office said he flew to Houston en route to Mississippi, CBS Denver reported.
On the same day as his announcement, Hancock encouraged his constituents to “stay home as much as you can,” “host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners” and “avoid travel if you can.”
As CBS News previously reported, Hancock on Friday suggested buying a small turkey for Thanksgiving and urged people to celebrate only with those they live with.
“I know this is hard. I know you hate this. I hate this,” he said Friday. “But we are doing our best to avoid a complete shutdown of our economy and, as our governor put it the other day, a catastrophic breach of our hospital system. We are trying our very best to protect lives and to protect livelihoods.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans last week not to travel over Thanksgiving, citing the myriad opportunities to transmit the virus while traveling or while in close quarters with family.
“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the CDC guidance said. “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
Nevertheless, AAA expects up to 50 million Americans to travel for the holidays, just 5 million less than in 2019. In a “final plea” to the nation before Thanksgiving, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans to follow COVID-19 guidelines while celebrating the holiday.
Denver was one of 15 counties in Colorado that moved to “Level Red” last week due to a surge in coronavirus cases. That level indicates “severe risk,” and is one below the state’s highest level, “Extreme Risk.” More than 210,000 people have contracted the virus in Colorado and over 2,500 have died, according to the state’s Department of Public Health and the Environment.