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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has issued a lengthy apology after calling on city residents to stay home for Thanksgiving to avoid spreading the coronavirus, before hitching a flight out of the state less than an hour later.

“Pass the potatoes, not Covid,” Hancock said in a tweet on Wednesday morning, urging Denverites to “stay at home as much as you can” and “avoid travel” for the holiday, among other recommendations amid the health crisis.

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

About 30 minutes after the tweet, however, Hancock boarded a plane bound for Mississippi, where he would spend Thanksgiving with family – directly at odds with the advice dispensed from his Twitter handle just moments earlier – according to a local NBC affiliate.

As news of his travel plans made the rounds, the mayor felt it necessary to pen a mea culpa, posted it in the form of five tweets, explaining his decision to leave the state to meet with his wife and daughter.

“I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel,” he said, adding that while his family had canceled a “multi-household Thanksgiving celebration,” they made an alternative plan for a stripped-down gathering which he had declined to share with the public.

I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone. 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.

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. (2/5)

The apology did little to tamp down the outrage, as netizens – including self-avowed supporters – blasted the Democratic mayor for hypocrisy and imposing rules on others that he isn’t willing to follow himself.

“So could you possibly explain WHY your travel was ‘essential’ but other people’s isn’t?” one commenter asked. “Is their family somehow less important than yours? Or is it simply your wealth, power, and privilege once again sh**ting on others?”

Sir, I have voted for you, supported you, & defended you against covidiots. I’ve been away from my family since March. I am so damn embarrassed & pissed off!!!

I fully acknowledge that you wanted to see your family this year. My wife @jackieblanchard wanted to see hers but out of safety concerns brought up by you & your team we are going virtual. We made our decision as a husband, wife, & family. Why couldn’t you do a virtual holiday?

State representative and fellow Democrat Kyle Mullica echoed that criticism, saying elected officials must strive to “lead by example” and that Hancock’s decision “impacts all of us trying to do the right thing.”

Let’s be clear. As elected officials we are leaders in our community. People look to us for guidance. Perfection is impossible, but as leaders we should always be striving to lead by example. @MayorHancock decision impacts all of us trying to do the right thing.#copolitics#coleg

A city employee also weighed in, noting that he was not only “urged,” but required, to undergo a two-week quarantine should he travel out of state, demanding to know if Hancock would do the same when he returned to Denver. A spokesperson for the mayor has since clarified that he would indeed quarantine.

As a state employee, I am not allowed to travel without facing a quarantine… guess we aren’t special enough to see our families during the holiday season.

As of Wednesday, Denver has tallied nearly 34,000 coronavirus infections and just shy of 500 deaths, making it among the worst-affected areas in Colorado. Earlier this week, Governor Jared Polis warned that the city is seeing a spike in its outbreak, with one in 41 Denver residents currently carrying the virus, the highest number since the pandemic began. Colorado as a whole, meanwhile, has reported over 210,000 cases of the illness and some 2,900 deaths, as the national infection count approaches 12.8 million, with over 261,000 fatalities.

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