AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- As the number of coronavirus cases in Travis County, Texas began to surge in early November and local health officials amped up calls for everyone to avoid gathering with others outside their households, Austin Mayor Steve Adler hosted his daughter's wedding at a local hotel and traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a group of both immediate and extended family members.
Adler said he consulted with health experts, including Travis County interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott, on how to make the wedding and the trip as safe as possible. "Several weeks ago, when my daughter cancelled her planned wedding to replace it with a COVID appropriate more private ceremony and when my family traveled, we consulted with health authorities and worked hard to model the kind of behavior I’ve asked of the community," Adler said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
The wedding was held outdoors on Nov. 8 at the Hotel St. Cecilia on South Congress Avenue with approximately 20 guests. According to Adler, the wedding followed the state's guidelines, and all of the attendeees had to undergo a rapid COVID-19 test. Under the guidelines from the Department of State Health Services, outdoor weddings - which are strongly recommended - do not have an occupancy limit, while indoor weddings are limited to 75% of the venue's capacity.
At the time of the wedding, the area was under Stage 3 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines. Stage 3 recommendations urge everyone to avoid gatherings of greater than 10 people, and for high-risk individuals to avoid non-essential travel.
After the group traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Adler recorded a video message that was posted on Nov. 9, urging residents to stay home if they could. "We need to stay home if you can... we need to keep the numbers down," Adler said. "This is not the time to relax. We may have to close things down if we are not careful."
In the video, Adler made no mention of the fact that he had traveled outside of the country.
The day after Adler's video message was posted to Facebook, Escott urged everyone to start limiting their traveling as coronavirus cases continued to increase. "If you are going to go out to a restaurant, go out with your family, the people who live in your household, not the family or friends who don’t live in your household," Escott said. "And start to decrease those travels outside of your home that are not necessary."
With cases continuing to rise, Austin Public Health raised the risk level on Nov. 19 to Stage 4, which urges everyone to avoid all non-essential travel and limit gatherings whenever possible.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted Adler on social media Wednesday afternoon, calling the mayor a hypocrite while referencing a CNN story on other Democratic officials who have been caught going against their own recommendations and orders. "And don't forget @MayorAdler who took a private jet with eight people to Cabo and WHILE IN CABO recorded a video telling Austinites to 'stay home if you can...this is not the time to relax,'" Cruz wrote on Twitter.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Adler said he regretted traveling to Mexico.
"I regret this travel. I wouldn’t travel now, didn’t over Thanksgiving and won’t over Christmas," Adler said. "But my fear is that this travel, even having happened during a safer period, could be used by some as justification for risky behavior. In hindsight, and even though it violated no order, it set a bad example for which I apologize."
Adler repeated his apology during his "Got A Minute" segment on Facebook Live Wednesday evening. "I recognize that the fact that I took that trip, and at the same time was continuing to urge people to be cautious, is confusing," Adler said. "I know that others have chosen not to travel under the same circumstances, and I know that in my position I need to send a clearer message. I'm sorry I took that trip. It was a lapse in judgement, and I want you to know that I apologize."