Many in the Denver community are furious as, after urging his residents to stay home and not gather with family, Mayor Michael Hancock flew to Houston Wednesday, traveling to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his daughter.
9News broke the story Wednesday morning and a spokesperson for Hancock confirmed that the mayor is traveling to see his daughter and wife, who are already in Mississippi.
“I’m shocked and saddened by this behavior and I don’t understand it,” said Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval of Denver’s District 1.
Hancock has regularly told Denverites to refrain from unnecessary travel and gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19. Denver was put under Level Red COVID-19 restrictions a week ago, the second most severe level.
Under Level Red, all personal gatherings are prohibited, including Thanksgiving celebrations.
Just seven days ago, Hancock sent an email to city staff that read, “with the continued rise in cases, I’m urging you to refrain from travel this Thanksgiving holiday. For my family that means cancelling our traditional gathering of our extended family.”
The email went on to say that anyone who travels out of state should quarantine for 14 days and will need to use paid time off for the leave if they’re unable to work from home.
“Mayor Michael Hancock made the personal decision to travel for Thanksgiving,” said City Council President Stacie Gilmore. “I expect the mayor will follow and comply with the directives he issued to all City of Denver employees and quarantine for 14 days upon his return.”
Despite Hancock’s decision to travel out of state, Gilmore is still urging Denver residents to stay home for the holidays.
“Travel is strongly discouraged by all the leading health experts,” Gilmore said. “Protect yourselves and the people you care about by continuing to diligently follow all safety guidelines.”
Gov. Jared Polis has spent weeks spreading this sentiment, begging Coloradans not to gather for the holiday.
At a Nov. 13 conference, Polis said visiting family for the holidays without quarantining for two weeks prior is akin to holding "a loaded pistol to grandma's head,” adding that one in 20 hospitalized with COVID-19 will die.
On Tuesday, Polis said one in 41 Coloradans are currently infected with COVID-19, the highest level since the pandemic began.
Polis said during a news conference on Wednesday that he was unaware of Hancock’s plan to travel for Thanksgiving and that he has not spoken to Hancock about it.
News of Hancock’s traveling spread quickly through social media as, 30 minutes before his flight, Hancock’s account tweeted, “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners. Avoid travel, if you can.”
Over a thousand people responded to Hancock’s tweet in a matter of hours, pointing out the mayor’s "hypocritical" actions.
Responses include, “This is selfish and a terrible example for the mayor,” “Typical politics, do what as I say, not as I do” and “You're gonna come home to a lot of angry constituents who made sacrifices while you didn't.”
In response to the news of Hancock’s travel, Councilman Chris Hinds tweeted that he will be spending Thanksgiving at his Denver home with his dog.
Hinds also tweeted out the definition of “unforced error” with no context, seemingly directed at Hancock. The definition was “a missed shot or lost point that is entirely the result of the player’s own blunder…”
Lauren Boebert, recently elected to Congress from Western Colorado, also addressed the controversy on twitter, saying, “When Denver Mayor Michael Hancock goes against his own orders, Denver residents need to stop taking orders from Mayor Hancock.”
A spokesperson for Hancock released the following statement:
"As he has shared, the Mayor is not hosting his traditional large family dinner this year, but instead traveling alone to join his wife and daughter where the three of them will celebrate Thanksgiving at her residence instead of having them travel back to Denver. Upon return, he will follow all necessary health and safety guidance and quarantine."
9News contributed to the reporting for this story.