D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Tuesday defended her decision to travel Saturday to Delaware, a state with significantly higher coronavirus risk than the District, to celebrate president-elect Joe Biden’s victory and meet with his staff.
The trip, which comes as the mayor attempts to discourage interstate travel because of the pandemic, prompted questions from reporters, and derision on social media from some residents and Bowser critics.
The mayor said she was “very proud” to attend the celebration in Wilmington, and that the trip “absolutely” qualified as “essential travel” — which is exempted from Bowser’s quarantine order — because she was conducting government business on the road.
“I do a lot of things to advance the interests of the District of Columbia. Some of them are formal and some of them are informal, but all of them are necessary,” she said.
It remained unclear Tuesday whether the mayor was tested for coronavirus after returning from her trip and before appearing in public, which her office advises for people who have come into the city from a high risk state.
[In Maryland, local officials ask governor to reimpose restrictions as cases spike]
Bowser and members of her staff, including deputy mayor John Falcicchio, conversed in Wilmington with Biden strategist Symone Sanders, along with watching the outdoor speeches by Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris. Bowser posted a photo of herself celebrating while wearing a mask — like everyone around her — and a “We are D.C.” scarf.
“We congratulated [Biden] team members that we saw,” Bowser said on Tuesday when reporters asked about the purpose and nature of the government business she conducted on the trip. “I congratulated the people that I saw. I had, recently, conversations with the transition team itself.”
She said that the District government will need to coordinate upcoming events with Biden’s staff. “Building a relationship with the new team is going to be important for all of us.”
The trip triggered immediate criticism from conservative media: Fox News’s headline, for example, was “DC mayor disregarded own COVID restrictions to attend Biden victory speech, defends ‘essential travel.’”
After NBC4 reporter Mark Segraves tweeted Bowser’s photograph at the celebration, a flood of residents and others responded, most of them accusing the mayor of following different coronavirus safety protocols than what she preaches for residents.
“I cancelled Passover seders and haven’t seen my friends and family in months,” reporter Jon Steingart responded.
WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle posted that Bowser’s description of her trip “might be stretching the definition of ‘essential’ just a touch/whole lot.”
[D.C. eases travel restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving holiday]
Until last week, Bowser’s mayoral order on interstate travel would have required anyone who visited Delaware (and other states with more than 10 new daily coronavirus cases on average per 100,000 residents) to quarantine at home for two weeks upon returning to the District, except those whose travel was for essential purposes.
Last week, however, Bowser replaced that order with a new one, getting rid