International health experts applauded President-elect Joe Biden’s recent election and claimed that it would usher in a new era of global cooperation and science-backed decisions. This could very well be the case. Biden has made no secret about how he will govern. While on the campaign trail, he stated that he will “listen to the scientists” with regard to his coronavirus response, and he should absolutely do this.

Despite what many think, President Trump listened to medical professionals as well. He just didn’t always follow their advice. Sometimes that’s appropriate, given that public policy decisions must be based on more than just what doctors say. There are economic, social, geographic and even national security issues that should also inform public health decisions. Even so, Trump took fire for allegedly not taking matters more seriously, and President-elect Biden could easily garner the same criticisms if he fails to follow his own guidelines.

Biden warned that the United States could be headed for a “very dark winter,” and there may be some truth to this. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and threatens to stretch American medical capacity to the limit. Millions will contract COVID-19, and many will certainly succumb to the illness. However, we might be witnessing the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to the Trump administration’s efforts and the free market, a couple drug manufacturers have already secured emergency vaccine approval, and some Americans have already begun the inoculation process.

We are not out of the woods yet—as is evident by the worsening pandemic. This highlights why it is so important for Biden to deliver sound advice to Americans and to follow it. This has been an issue around the country where many elected officials seem to believe that the pandemic rules do not apply to them—perhaps because they are rich and/or powerful.

Californian Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued some of the country’s most heavy-handed COVID-19 restrictions and is urging people to stay home, but he doesn’t seem to always follow his guidelines. He was recently criticized for apparently violating his restrictions by attending a lobbyist’s birthday party with 12 guests at the posh French Laundry.

California appears to be a hot-bed for such brash behavior. No less than 20 California lawmakers traveled to Maui, Hawaii, for the Independent Voter Project’s annual event. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo celebrated Thanksgiving with people outside of his household—seeming to violate his own guidelines. Even U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who hails from San Francisco evidently had a bout with the hypocrisy bug. She planned a large lavish dinner for numerous incoming House members, but smartly canceled it after receiving bad press.

This goes far beyond California, though; It appears to be a national trend. In Denver, Colorado, Mayor Michael Hancock advised his constituents to stay home for the holidays, but he decided to fly to Mississippi to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. Likewise, in Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler pleaded with Austinites to avoid travel, but he resolved to vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. What’s more, over the summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to travel to Georgia. Even though he placed the Peach State on New York’s 14-day quarantine list, Cuomo announced that he didn’t need to follow these guidelines. Why? Because he deemed himself to be an essential employee. How convenient.

This is just a small sampling of elected officials’ misadventures, but my point is not to shame them but to underscore the dangers of such actions. Those lawmakers who seem determined to skirt their own public health guidelines are providing a terrible example to their constituents. Indeed, their activities suggest that following guidelines isn’t particularly important—at least if you’re politically powerful. This is just another example of governing officials adopting a flippant do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude that undermines their policy and public health goals.

Like every American, I am more than ready to have this pandemic behind us, and while President Trump helped set the stage with Operation Warp Speed to fast-track vaccine production, President-elect Biden will likely oversee the bulk of the vaccines’ distribution. Nevertheless, it will take many months to vaccinate most of the country, which means that Americans need to take the proper precautions in the meantime. One way to reinforce good behavior is for Biden to lead by example and not fall prey to apparent lure of hypocrisy.

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