Governor Gavin Newsom is facing criticism that he and his wife attended a 12-person dinner at the French Laundry for the birthday of a political advisor last week at which members of at least three households were present. The news comes in a moment when Newsom is publicly calling on Californians to avoid gathering for Thanksgiving or traveling for the holidays due to rising COVID cases.
The dinner happened on November 6, and was entirely outdoors. As the Chronicle reports, it was a 50th birthday dinner for political advisor Jason Kinney.
"The restaurant was open for normal dining, consistent with state and county health guidance," said a spokesperson for Kinney to the Los Angeles Times. "All of the restaurant safety protocols were adhered to — and the guests followed those protocols."
Newsom issued a statement of apology today, as this story made the rounds on Politico and elsewhere.
"While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner," the governor said.
Neither the state nor Napa County restrict restaurants from seating groups like this one, and do not specify how many households are permitted to dine together.
The state has issued guidance that people only gather in groups of three or fewer households, and only outdoors. And Californians are being discouraged from celebrating Thanksgiving in their normal modes.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary, tells the Times, "We have the guidance and the tips for a reason. We believe they are the strategies to keep ourselves and our communities safe and we hope, and expect, people to take them seriously."
The LA Times pressed the Governor's Office about whether Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom were planning to gather with any family or friends for Thanksgiving.