Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton is the latest elected official in California to face a public outcry for their seemingly hypocritical behavior regarding pandemic-related public health rules. And business owners in the county are speaking out about not being able to reopen for customers — despite their best safety efforts — all while their DA hosted about 30 people for a backyard wedding last year.
Pretty much everyone has likely done something that wasn't absolutely COVID-safe during the last year, but elected officials are being held to higher standards as we have been expected to listen to their proclamations about public health and abide by an ever-changing set of rules. Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall effort in no small part because of his decisions to close down the economy, and all the while he was caught last November attending a group dinner in Napa the likes of which most of us have avoided for 11 months.
Becton is the latest to catch a spotlight she did not want, after the SF Chronicle published a report on Sunday about the backyard wedding she hosted at her home in El Sobrante last August 1. She was the bride, in this case, and she insists that she consulted with county health officials and took every possible precaution — but this was during a summer surge in which thousands of local brides likely postponed their weddings, in order to abide by public health warnings about gatherings of any kind.
"I believed that since this was an outdoor only event that I would be okay as long as proper safety precautions were adhered to," Becton says in a Facebook post on Sunday. "I ensured all my guests had their temperature taken before entering the backyard, everyone wore masks, and were socially distanced throughout the ceremony." She says that meals were individually plated after the ceremony, as an extra precaution.
"I did everything I believed was in proper guidance with what I thought was allowed," Becton says. "I realize public officials like myself are held to a higher standard, as we should be." But, she does not apologize for her actions, and she adds that no one who attended the wedding was known to have been infected with COVID-19. A spokesperson for Becton estimated that 25 to 30 people attended — but neighbors in El Sobrante say that they were warned of 20 to 30 extra cars showing up in the neighborhood at the time. Neighbors also reported hearing music going into the night — Becton says she and her husband danced, but no one else did.
She told the Chronicle, "I hope that I did not do anything that was in violation of any rules. If I did, it certainly was not my intent."
Surely Becton must have known what the rules were, but we have to take her at her word.
As NBC Bay Area writes, some business owners in the county are pissed about this story because the way public-health guidance has come down, there has not been any wiggle room in terms of businesses taking extra precautions — they've been either told to close completely, or open with restrictions.
Craig Howard, the owner of Diablo Crossfit, which has been fined by the county for illegally being open for indoor fitness training, tells the station, "I’m being fined for being open with a lesser amount of people in an environment that is likely much safer than what she was doing." He points to ventilation systems, CO2 meters, and more precautions he's taken to keep patrons safe.
"So [Becton] considers herself able and competent enough to hold an event like that, I would like them to also consider me competent and able enough to keep my members safe as well," Howard says.
A local wedding planner also expresses her outrage to NBC Bay Area, saying, "I have lost an entire year of income because I can’t celebrate — my clients can’t celebrate."
As the Chronicle notes, Becton spent 22 years as a judge in Contra Costa County before becoming DA in 2018, and she's been talked about as being in consideration for the state Attorney General's job. Xavier Becerra is expected to be confirmed as Biden's Health and Human Services Secretary any week now, and it will be up to Newsom to name his successor. Will this incident imperil her chances? We shall see.