Now, none of these officials violated their own state’s rules. Each claimed that they were planning to quarantine on return. But that’s splitting hairs. Each state has its own rules about masks, indoor dining, social get-togethers, quarantine and travel, each of which may, or may not, coincide with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidance on best practice. That doesn’t mean that the science on viral transmission isn’t clear. Indoor, maskless get-togethers are high risk during this time of high community prevalence of Covid-19. Period. And at the end of the day, these officials said one thing, and then did another. Even if they ate outdoors and kept their masks on inside, they traveled after advising others not to.

Moreover, if it were just these officials making unsafe choices on their own, that would be one thing. But we know that’s not how it works with Covid-19. If one person uses poor judgment and goes to a wedding or a restaurant or a home get-together while sick, it may not hurt them — but it has a ripple effect on their community. And when many of the hospitals in our country already report being overwhelmed, without intensive care unit beds or adequate staff, then the family who were in a car accident, the patient having a heart attack, or the person with a bleeding ulcer might not get the care they need. Every individual act has societal implications and ramifications. All the more so on the part of our politicians and public health leaders.