California Gov. Gavin Newsom is under fire after violating at least two of his state's coronavirus rules by attending a 12-person birthday party in early November – after urging Californians to only interact with members of their own household.
Newsom acknowledged he attended a birthday party with a dozen friends on Nov. 6 at the posh French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco.
“While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,” he said in a statement.
Newsom and state and local health officials have urged people to stay within their own households. If people must visit others, they should meet outside, include no more than three households, wear masks, stay socially distant and limit their interaction to two hours.
The dinner, first reported Friday by the San Francisco Chronicle, included 12 people at the famed restaurant in Napa County. It was in celebration of the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney, a Newsom friend and political adviser. Newsom’s wife also attended.
Fox 11 Los Angeles obtained photos of the gathering that show the governor and his wife chatting with a man at what appears to be a distance of less than six feet. None of them are wearing masks.
"The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was," Fox 11's Bill Melugin wrote on Twitter. "A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed."
According to the Chronicle, representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three.
Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Click, did not answer questions from the Associated Press about whether Newsom was tested for the coronavirus after attending or if he wore a mask when he wasn’t eating or drinking, as he has urged Californians to do.
Newsom apologized Monday after he received backlash over the party, saying he made a “bad mistake.”
“I should have stood up and ... drove back to my house…The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”
Newsom's latest virus restrictions took effect on Tuesday. California put 41 of the state’s 51 counties in the strictest of the four-tier system for reopening that is based on virus cases and infection rates. Newsom said 13 counties were in the strictest tier last week.
Daily cases in California have doubled in the last 10 days, representing “the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said at a briefing Monday. Last week, California topped 1 million coronavirus cases.
Dr. Teresa Frankovich, health officer for Humboldt County, which is in the so-called “red tier," just one away from the strictest tier, detailed the restrictions to county residents on Monday, saying the recent increases are to blame on travel and gatherings of people.
“This is travel where you're going to visit friends and family, staying in households, having close contact unmasked, sharing vehicles," Frankovich said. “I really want to be clear to people that if we want to be able to keep our schools operational, to keep our business community operational, we have to stop the gathering.”
The Associated Press and Fox News' Brie Stimson, Kayla Rivas and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.