D.C. Mayor defies her own travel rules, claims staff trip to Delaware for Biden’s acceptance speech is “essential travel”


WASHINGTON, D.C.- Fox News reported that despite Delaware being on the Washington D.C. list of “high risk states,” Mayor Muriel Bowser and her staff traveled to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s victory speech in Delaware. Mayor Bowser reportedly defended their “trip” as “essential travel.”

Bowser’s justification for her travel was first reported by Mark Segraves of WRC, the NBC-owned station in D.C., who went on to quote one of her staff members as saying the trip was “essential travel” and “excepted under the Mayor’s order.”

Segraves quoted Bowser’s Chief of Staff John J. Falicchio who said that the mayor and her senior adviser met with Symone Sanders, a campaign adviser for Biden.

Just one week prior to Election Day, Mayor Bowser’s office released a “high risk” states list and Delaware was on it. It was not removed prior to this “essential travel” trip. According to the guidelines:

“Anyone coming into Washington, D.C. 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.”

The guidelines further state that:

“Individuals traveling from high-risk states after essential travel or arriving in the District for essential travel are required to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days and if they show signs or experience symptoms of COVID-19, they are to self-quarantine and seek medical advice or testing.”

The mayor has also not released any statements related to the thousands of Americans who celebrated in the streets over the weekend following Biden’s presidential victory. Countless photos and videos have emerged on social media showing participants packed shoulder-to-shoulder in close quarters. 

Many, but not all, appeared to have masks on, however, very few were abiding the required six-feet social distancing recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

During her “Coronavirus Situational Update” news conference, which was held Monday, November 9th, mayor Bowser confirmed that she had traveled to Delaware and was present for the victory speeches of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris. 

Reportedly, mayor Bowser’s office told FOX 5 that the trip was considered “essential travel” because the mayor met with members of the Biden-Harris campaign in her “official capacity” as D.C.’s mayor while there.

Apparently, that is considered “government-to-government” action. Per the district’s guidelines, essential travel does not necessitate mandatory testing. 

The mayor’s office also said that Bowser traveled on Saturday evening and returned the same night. When asked if she took a COVID-19 test before or after out of precaution, however, the only information offered up was that the “mayor tests regularly and did so earlier in the week.”

Bowser told reporters that she has offered her congratulations to Biden and Harris and celebrated their projected win with family members and supporters. Two staffers also traveled with the mayor to Wilmington, Delaware.

When pressed on whether she had concern about large groups of people traveling to D.C. for Biden’s inauguration in January, especially now that 42 states are on D.C.’s “high-risk” list, Bowser kept her remarks minimally detailed. She claimed that she has been involved with early planning phases with the federal government for the ceremony and has not issued inauguration guidance yet. 

The mayor added that is is not shutting down hotels around January 20, 2021 out of COVID-19 concerns, but did confirm that the city has the authority to place restrictions on Airbnb’s. 

On Monday, November 9th, the district reported 86 new positive coronavirus cases for November 8th, bringing the overall positive case total to 18,087. The district’s test positivity rate is now at 3 percent as of last Thursday, November 5th. 

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WASHINGTON, DC – At a press conference Thursday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed Washington DC’s current state of affairs with COVID-19 and presented her recommendations for potential social gatherings during upcoming July 4 celebrations.
Her initial statement set the tone for discouragement of any social gatherings away from the home:
“We want to send a message to enjoy the Fourth of July, to celebrate according to our guidance, and to do it at home.  Our strong recommendation is that DC residents celebrate the Fourth of July at home or near their home in small gatherings.”
Referring to the celebration planned by the White House, she stated:
“We hope that the crowds that come in non-pandemic years won’t materialize this year.” 
She added:
“Large gatherings are still a high risk activity.”

The mayor went on to address current coronavirus infection data in the DC area.
“Today we reported 31 new cases, and as long as there’s no cure or no vaccine, we remain concerned about any new case reports…. We still have to contain the virus.”
Part of DC’s plan for containment involves increased testing of the DC population.  While encouraging her citizens to come in for testing, Mayor Bowser showed a graphic indicating that the number of tests for covid has “dramatically increased” from 1534 tests for the week ending June 5, to 5985 in the week ending June 12, and to 5384 for the week ending June 19. 
It should be noted that these figures refer to numbers of tests performed, not positive cases.
Also in her presentation, she added graphics of hospitalizations over time and deaths over time, not noting that the quantities of both continued to show consistent decrease.  Instead, she spoke of concern for “rebounding cases” in light of reopening efforts.
She said:
“You’ve asked me here, are you concerned about it as we go through reopening, and the answer is a resounding yes.  We see what’s happening around the country.  I’m told that yesterday, in fact, was the highest number of new daily cases in the United States since our response to the pandemic began.”
Currently, Washington DC is in Phase 2 of their Reopen DC plans.  Among other limited allowances, Phase 2 calls for “outdoor large gatherings (eg, parades)” to permit “up to 50 people, with safeguards and physical distancing.”

Exceptions to phase rules require applications for exception and an in-depth review and planning process.  According to Christopher Rodriguez, Director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, theaters, sports teams, and other nonessential business entities are allowed to apply for waivers to phase restrictions. 
Such businesses, he stated:
 “[H]ave to provide to us very detailed plans on how they will adhere to public health guidelines in their facilities and to conduct certain business-essential activities. 
Those plans go through a very rigorous and thorough review by the DC Department of Health and by Emergency Management, and then we talk to those applicants about changes that we need to see in order for them to continue or to restart essential business activities.”
Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health, spoke at the press conference of recent daily reports of 30-40 positive cases, remarking:
“Those cases are not connected, so that causes us some concern, but we have had a slower phase reopening.  We have not allowed activities such as bars and other nightlife activities that higher, uh, carry a higher risk of transmission when you still have moderate community transmission in your community. 
“So some of the states that have had accelerated or exponential growth have had a faster reopening and have had higher rates of community transmission at the time that they were reopening, and so we want to continue to be cautious….”
She continued:
“We want to emphasize that just because activities are available does not mean that you should participate in them.  People should be extremely judicious in choosing their activities, especially people who are our high-risk groups.”
With regards to upcoming Fourth of July celebrations and other social activities, Mayor Bowser expressed agreement with this approach:
“Wear a mask.  Keep a six-foot distance from others.  And choose, continue to choose, your activities wisely.  And, as I think about what that means for me, that just because something is open, doesn’t mean that I have to go.  Just because there are going to be fireworks downtown, doesn’t mean I have to go.  If I’m invited someplace, and I can’t be sure that my host is following all of, um, safe practices or I don’t know who’s going to be there, I don’t have to go there either.”

In light of the current stated Phase 2 restrictions on outdoor gathering, the Mayor’s concerns about possible increase in positive cases in the presence of reopening efforts, and her statement that outdoor gatherings are “a high risk activity,” one might think that she would have attempted to limit protests and riots in Washington, DC.
Instead, the Mayor appears to hold a different viewpoint when it comes to recent anti-police and Black Lives Matter protests in the DC area, however, remarking at the conference:  
“People can protest anywhere in the District of Columbia peacefully.”
On June 8, Mayor Bowser tweeted a video of herself appearing at Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of a large crowd of shoulder-to-shoulder protestors, addressing the presence of National Guard troops in DC at the time.  In the video she can be seen pointing out the mask wearing in the crowd but not making mention of physical distancing, or lack thereof. 
Bowser made another documented appearance at another protest June 3.  Video shows her walking within the crowds and surrounded closely by spectators and reporters.
The Mayor has made it quite clear that she shows favor to the Black Lives Matter movement, given her notable renaming of a section of 16th street in front of the White House as Black Lives Matter Plaza and her commissioning of a Black Lives Matter mural, also on 16th street. 
It appears also that she demonstrates this favor by protecting the protesters’ ability to gather in large masses absent physical distancing, even as she calls for families to stay home to celebrate our nation’s birthday.

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