San Jose mayor visits parents for Thanksgiving in apparent disregard of coronavirus warnings: report

Liccardo's chief of staff defended the visit as a 'private event – not public'

San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo reportedly visited his elderly parents' Saratoga home for Thanksgiving in apparent disregard of the county's COVID-19 holiday travel warnings, according to NBC Bay Area.

Liccardo said in a Tuesday statement that he and his wife have dined outdoors and while wearing masks with a total of eight people and five households. 

"I understand that the state regulations, issued on November [13], limit the number of households at a private gathering to three," the mayor said in a Tuesday statement. "I apologize for my decision to gather contrary to state rules by attending this Thanksgiving meal with my family. I understand my obligation as a public official to provide exemplary compliance with the public health orders, and certainly not to ignore them. I commit to do better."

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also recently came under fire for attending a birthday party at a French restaurant with three Michelin stars, and the California Department of Public Health on Oct. 9 issued new guidance ahead of the holiday season limiting gatherings to include people from no more than three households.

San Jose Police Department Police Chief Eddie Garcia, center right, and Mayor Sam Liccardo, center left, pose for picture. (Nhat V. Meyer/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

San Jose Police Department Police Chief Eddie Garcia, center right, and Mayor Sam Liccardo, center left, pose for picture. (Nhat V. Meyer/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Liccardo described the Thanksgiving gathering at his parents' house as a dinner on the back patio, where family members "sat around three distanced tables in [their] family groups on the back patio," where everyone "wore masks when not eating."

"I have a very large family — I am one of five children — and several of our family members who would have often joined us for Thanksgiving in the past — including sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins — stayed home out of caution," he said.

The mayor's press team initially told NBC Bay Area that Liccardo was staying home for Thanksgiving but later said a spokesperson "misspoke" and that the mayor spent the holiday with his parents. No other details about the visit are known at this time.

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"This is a private event – not public," Jim Reed, Liccardo’s chief of staff, said in a statement to the station. "We are going to redraw the line between what is personal and what is public because that line has become blurred."

Liccardo clarified that his office initially told NBC that he dined "at home" for the holiday, and "since that was inaccurate," his office then communicated "with the reporter to correct the record" and said he was dining at his parents' home.

San Jose fell under California's "Purple Tier" ahead of Thanksgiving, meaning the county has more than seven cases per 100,000 people – or a more than 8% positivity rate – and residents and business owners are subject to the state's strictest lockdown measures. 

In a Nov. 25 tweet, Liccardo said cases were spiking because people were letting their "guard down" and not wearing masks with "family and friends."

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Nov. 14 warned residents to keep holiday gatherings between "immediate household members only" during a virtual town hall, according to NBC Bay Area.

"I cannot emphasize enough, gathering with friends and family who are not in your household is not safe," she said.

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The guidance also says gatherings should be held outdoors with social distancing and masks.

Hospitalizations in California have increased 89% over the past 14 days and nearly 7,800 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Monday. Public health officials warned that people ignoring distance and mask guidelines and gathering for Thanksgiving with non-household relatives could lead to a massive surge in coronavirus cases by Christmas.

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About 12% of Californians testing positive are likely to need hospital care within the next two to three weeks.

The biggest concern is intensive care cases, which have increased 67% in the past two weeks. The state has around 7,700 ICU beds, and currently 75% are occupied. More than 1,800 ICU patients have COVID-19.

If cases continue to spike, Newsom could implement even stricter lockdown rules. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.