San Francisco Chronicle: "Newsom attended French Laundry party with more households than California advises during pandemic"

Alexei Koseff
November 13, 2020

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom attended a birthday party for one of his political advisers last week that included people from several households, the type of gathering his administration has discouraged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The dinner the night of Nov. 6 at the famed French Laundry in Yountville in Napa County brought together at least 12 people to celebrate the 50th birthday [party]. In addition to the governor, his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was in attendance.

State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” to no more than three households. Representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three.

Throughout the pandemic, Newsom has urged Californians to maintain social distancing and to minimize mixing between households. He has redoubled those calls as coronavirus rates have risen this fall.

On Monday, he pointed to private gatherings, such as extended families getting together, as a driving factor of the increase in new cases in the state. …

The California Department of Public Health issued guidelines Oct. 9 allowing small private gatherings for the first time during the pandemic. Under the guidelines, gatherings that include more than three households are prohibited. …

But John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and a clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said state and county officials were drawing an arbitrary distinction that is not based on any science.

 … he [Swartzberg] said dining out with 12 people could be a much riskier activity than other types of gatherings, because people must take off their masks to eat and drink.

… Swartzberg said, Newsom modeled poor behavior for the public by attending the birthday dinner.

“…  But it’s not the best judgment,” he said. “He has to be the grownup in the room. And he has to be the one that people model. That’s what comes with the responsibility of being a leader.”

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