DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock flew to Mississippi Wednesday to have Thanksgiving with his wife and daughter at his daughter’s home after pleading with Denverites not to travel for the holiday if possible.
On Wednesday morning, Mike Strott, deputy communications director with the Office of the Mayor, confirmed that Hancock had left the state to celebrate the holiday.
In a statement, Strott said: "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."
This comes at a time when more Coloradans than ever before are contagious with COVID-19. About one in 41 Coloradans are contagious with coronavirus, up from one in 49 last week and a large increase from an estimated one in 110 in recent weeks, health officials said in a Tuesday press conference.
During a Mornings with the Mayor segment on Denver7 Wednesday morning, Hancock said if you can, stay in your household and with those you live with for the holiday. If you choose to travel, he said to "do what we’ve always been asking throughout the entire experience: Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands."
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis said he hadn't talked with Hancock about his Thanksgiving plans, and was not aware of them. Polis said he will celebrate Thanksgiving with just his four-person family.
"That's because we care deeply about our extended family and I haven't seen my parents in nine months and that's very hard," he said. "Not only do I want to set the example as governor, of course, but frankly this is what we do because we love our family."
Denver City Council President Stacie Gilmore said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that she expects 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.”
“While we all miss the ability to see our friends and family during the holidays, travel is strongly discouraged by all the leading health experts. The most recent health order from the State of Colorado asks that travel be limited to ‘necessary travel’ for critical government and business purposes only,” Gilmore added. “I strongly encourage all Denver residents to stay home for the holidays. Protect yourselves and the people you care about by continuing to diligently follow all safety guidelines.”
Hancock issued a statement Wednesday afternoon just after 4 p.m. MT discussing his decision to travel and said he apologized to Denverites who were disappointed in his conflicting messages and actions.
“I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration. What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver,” Hancock said in the statement.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” the mayor added. “As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
On Wednesday at 8:43 a.m., Hancock's Twitter account published a tweet emphasizing the importance of staying at home as much as possible and avoiding travel.
Pass the potatoes, not COVID.
🏘️Stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick.
💻Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners.
❌Avoid travel, if you can.
🍲Order your holiday meal from a local eatery.
🎁Shop online with a small business for #BlackFriday. pic.twitter.com/acQpWs2Ism
— Michael B. Hancock 😷 (@MayorHancock) November 25, 2020
The Denver Department of Public Safety issued a message on Monday from Executive Director Murphy Robinson, which read, "Rising COVID cases require all of us to take additional precautions and for many, that means sharing a Thanksgiving meal with loved ones virtually instead of in person. These are tough times and we are all weary of all the limitations this pandemic is placing on our lives. Unfortunately, we now find ourselves in the midst of the largest surge in cases we’ve seen so far and trends indicate it will get worse before it gets better."
Hancock started urging Denverites to rethink their Thanksgiving plans in early November.
“We’re not going to sit here and tell you that Thanksgiving is canceled in Denver. It is not,” Hancock said during a Nov. 6 press conference. “But I’m going to urge everyone to think differently about Thanksgiving this year.”
In a Nov. 20 press conference, Hancock said his family had chosen to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this year.
"So please, I urge everyone: Maybe get a small turkey this year and celebrate with just the host you live with," he said. "And after the meal, as we're gonna do, Zoom with your extended family — all your friends, everyone that you meet, and tell them that you look forward to seeing them real soon, and that maybe next year, maybe next year, we can all be together again."
He said he was "asking, I'm urging, I'm pleading" with everybody to stay home.
"Stay home, maybe put out holiday decorations, but stay home," he said.
According to Colorado’s COVID-19 website, the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving and keep family safe is catch up via computer or phone instead of visiting them.
“Staying home and celebrating with your immediate household, or celebrating with friends and family virtually, is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this year,” the state’s website reads.