The number of new coronavirus infections is rising fast in virtually every part of the country as states and counties continue setting limits on public life and social gatherings. Government leaders at the state and local level are trying to protect their constituents from the virus as we head further into winter, but some residents are growing tired of being told what to do.
This debate is on full display in southern California, where Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl recently voted to ban all outdoor dining in the city, sending a death knell to the city’s 31,000 restaurants. The new restriction passed on a 3-2 margin.
However, just a few hours later, Kuehl was seen dining outdoors at an Italian restaurant close to her home in Santa Monica. The news sparked backlash as business owners and residents accused Kuehl of hypocrisy. This isn’t the first time a public official has been caught trying to engage in activities they were trying to ban.
A Scandal in Southern CA
In light of a recent surge in new coronavirus cases, government leaders in California are trying to slow the spread by any means necessary. Some hospitals in the state are nearing capacity as reports suggest the state’s ICUs could be overwhelmed by the middle of December if this trend continues. Already, around 99% of the state’s population is under curfew.
In addition to L.A. County’s decision to ban outdoor dining, Santa Clara County recently issued a ban on all contact sports, prompting the San Francisco 49ers to relocate the team’s next two games.
On Tuesday during the L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting, Sheila Kuehl referred to outdoor dining as “a most dangerous situation” before voting to ban it.
“This is a serious health emergency, and we must take it seriously,” Kuehl said during the meeting. “The servers are not protected from us, and they’re not protected from their other tables that they’re serving at that particular time, plus all the hours in which they’re working.”
While outdoor dining is considered much safer than indoor dining, it still presents a risk, according to the CDC.
However, Kuehl proceeded to eat outside at a local restaurant just a short while later.
After the news broke, a spokesperson for Kuehl said, “She did dine al fresco at Il Forno on the very last day it was permissible. She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit.”
The backlash came fast and swift.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who strongly opposed the ban, was shocked to see her colleague do the very thing she warned against:
“We have to remember that we who are in public office are held to a very high standard, as we should be, and one of the things I’m realizing with some of these new restrictions is if we can’t garner the trust of the public to be with us in this fight against the virus, then we’ve lost a big battle and I’m feeling that now nine months into this is we’re beginning to lose the trust of the public,” Hahn said.
Gaining Trust and Support
As the virus continues to spread across the country, we will likely see more safety restrictions go into effect, but it’s clear that politicians and community leaders need the support and trust of the public if they want people to abide by the new rules.
We saw similar scenes in New York when Gov. Andrew Cuomo advised his constituents not to travel for Thanksgiving. The news then broke that he was planning on traveling to spend the holiday with his elderly mother. He then canceled his plans.
The same was true of Michael Hancock, mayor of Denver, Colorado. He advised residents not to travel over the holiday, only to fly to Mississippi to see his wife and daughter.
After issuing an apology, he said, “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.”