Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who is unvaccinated and revealed this week that she tested positive for coronavirus, dined again at a New York City restaurant Wednesday night, flouting local health and safety measures calling for positive cases to isolate.
Elio's, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, has faced blowback after Palin dined indoors at the establishment on Saturday, in violation of the city's dining mandate for people to show proof of vaccination. The Manhattan judge in Palin's defamation trial against the New York Times revealed Monday that the proceedings would be delayed because the Republican tested positive for the virus. It's unclear when Palin first tested positive.
Even though local guidelines advise people who test positive to be in isolation for five days after their positive test, Palin returned to the restaurant on Wednesday night. In photos posted to Mediaite, the first to report the news, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, who has said she would only get vaccinated against COVID-19 “over my dead body,” was seen dining at a heated outdoor area of the restaurant. The city’s vaccine requirement does not apply for outdoor dining.
Anne Isaak, the owner of Elio's, told The Washington Post that she was against having Palin return to dine at the restaurant.
"It was against my clearly stated wishes that Sarah Palin dined outside last night," she wrote in a text message Thursday.
Luca Guaitolini, a manager for the restaurant, told CNN that Palin dined outdoors on Wednesday so that staff could be protected against possible infection.
"Tonight Sarah Palin returned to the restaurant to apologize for the fracas around her previous visit," Guaitolini said in a statement. "In accordance with the vaccine mandate and to protect our staff, we seated her outdoors. We are a restaurant open to the public, and we treat all civilians the same."
Kenneth Turkel, Palin's attorney in the defamation case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for New York city hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment. City Hall spokesperson Jonah Allon told WNYC/Gothamist that he encouraged "any New Yorker who came into contact with Ms. Palin to get tested, just as we encourage all New Yorkers to get tested regularly, especially those who believe they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus."
The news comes as some restaurants nationwide have struggled in recent weeks to stay open because of staff being infected from the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The waves of COVID disruption over the past two months have led to many restaurants and bars shuttering and reopening, which has also come with a financial toll and some uncertainty for service-industry workers.
While the United States is averaging more than 600,000 new infections a day, the seven-day rolling average for cases has declined by 21 percent compared to the previous period, according to data tracked by The Post. Cases have significantly dropped in New York state by 48 percent compared to the previous seven-day cycle. Hospitalizations have also sharply declined by 31 percent in the state, data shows.
In New York City, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all decreasing compared to the holiday surge, according to city health data.
Since Dec. 27, indoor diners ages 12 and older in New York City must show proof that they received two doses of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Despite a previous infection last March in which she said she suffered "bizarre" symptoms, Palin has vehemently opposed coronavirus vaccines.
"It'll be over my dead body that I'll have to get a shot," Palin said last month at a conservative conference in Phoenix. "I will not do that. I won't do it, and they better not touch my kids either."
Palin is in Manhattan for her upcoming trial against the New York Times over a 2017 editorial she says defamed her. It is the first libel case against the Times to go to trial in the United States in 18 years. Palin alleges that an unsigned 2017 editorial libeled her by linking an ad from her political action committee in 2011 to a mass shooting that same year in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 12 others, including Gabby Giffords, then a Democratic member of Congress.
Palin was first reported to be dining indoors at Elio's on Saturday in a tweet from New York magazine writer Shawn McCreesh.
Guaitolini acknowledged to the Times that Palin dined indoors over the weekend without being asked for proof that she had been vaccinated. The manager noted that the restaurant does not check vaccination cards for regular customers who come in each week and that Palin had dined with a regular. He told Eater that Elio's is checking diners' vaccination status in accordance with the mandate, but the process of managing the different kinds of proofs of vaccination - paper cards, photos of cards, apps - can be overwhelming.
Then, before jury selection could begin in the defamation trial, US District Court Judge Jed Rakoff said he was informed on Sunday night that Palin had tested positive for the virus.
"She is, of course, unvaccinated," Rakoff noted on Monday morning, before rescheduling her trial for next month.
A spokesman for New York Democratic Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement this week that Palin "needs to respect small business workers and follow the rules just like everyone else." The restaurant also faced criticism for not holding Palin to the same standards as other diners, but city agencies said Elio's would not be investigated for allowing her to dine indoors. The city does not issue violations related to the dining mandate unless they are observed by an inspector.
Isaak told the Times this week that Palin's initial visit put "a lot of pressure on everyone" and vowed that the restaurant would "be more vigilant."
But Palin's positive test over the weekend did not stop her from dining around Manhattan, defying the self-isolation guidelines. On Tuesday night, Palin signed autographs and took selfies with people as she dined outdoors at Campagnola, another Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, according to Gothamist.
"You could see everyone was side-eyeing her," resident Ashley Foley told the outlet. "Everyone had read the story about her going to Elio's and getting a positive coronavirus test. She was very top-of-mind if you live on the Upper East Side."
She drew as much attention when she returned to Elio’s on Wednesday night. Video shows her being rushed into an SUV as a reporter asks her questions about dining in public while COVID-positive.
It remains unclear whether the restaurant will face renewed scrutiny over allowing Palin to return days after she tested positive for COVID.