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Top brass at California medical group joined Newsom at French Laundry party

Top brass at California medical group joined Newsom at French Laundry party

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SACRAMENTO — Two top officials at the California Medical Association attended a birthday party alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month as the state experienced an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Dustin Corcoran, the organization’s chief executive officer and Janus Norman, a senior vice president, were among a dozen people at the dinner at an upscale wine country restaurant, CMA spokesman Anthony York said Tuesday.

The California Medical Association represents 50,000 doctors in the nation’s most populous state and has recently tweeted messages including #StayHome and #WearAMask. None of the people at the dinner are wearing masks in photos obtained by Fox 11, a Los Angeles news station.

“The dinner was held in accordance with state and county guidelines,” York said in an emailed statement.

Corcoran did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

The Nov. 6 dinner at the French Laundry in Napa County was a 50th birthday celebration for Jason Kinney, a lobbyist and informal adviser to Newsom.

Newsom and state and local health officials have urged people to stay within their own households. If people must visit others, they should meet outside, include no more than three households, wear masks, stay socially distant and limit their time together, according to state guidelines.

Newsom’s office has not responded to repeated questions from the Associated Press about whether the governor wore a mask while not eating or drinking, as he’s urged Californians to do, or was tested following the dinner. He apologized on Monday for attending and said he made a “bad mistake.”

A spokesman for Kinney told the San Francisco Chronicle, which first broke news of the dinner, that 12 people were in attendance.

The photos of the dinner show the group seated closely together around a table. The table is surrounded by walls on three sides, and the room appears to be open on the fourth side.

At the time of the dinner, Napa County allowed outdoor dining and limited indoor dining under the state’s tiered reopening system. But Newsom on Monday moved Napa and most other counties back into the state’s most restrictive tier, which prohibits indoor dining, as the state faces a surge in cases and the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

Newsom’s decision to attend the dinner could damage his credibility as he urges California’s nearly 40 million residents to exercise caution as the holidays approach.

The three-star Michelin restaurant has maintained its $350 per person tasting menu, served in an outdoor dining room during the pandemic. It also added a number of other options, including a $450 per person menu for parties of up to 12 people, that can be served indoors or outside, and another for $850. The restaurant requires all reservations to be paid in advance.

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A model calculates a 12% chance that a guest at a small dinner party in Napa Valley is infected with the virus. Whether indoors or outdoors, dining in a restaurant is “amongst the riskiest things we do for COVID,” a UC San Francisco health expert said.

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