Head of Guadalupe County COVID-19 response went on international fishing trip to virus hotspot

Pinder took trip from late November to early December despite CDC recommendation against travel to the Dominican Republic

Patrick Pinder, the Guadalupe County fire marshal in charge of the county's COVID-19 response, traveled to a coronavirus hotspot in late November, he admitted. (KSAT)

GUADALUPE COUNTY, Texas – The public official in charge of Guadalupe County’s COVID-19 response confirmed Tuesday he recently returned from a fishing trip to the Dominican Republic despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Americans avoid all travel to the coronavirus hotspot.

Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said the trip for a friend’s birthday to Punta Cana, located on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, was planned and paid for before the pandemic.

“I can’t say anything because I know I’m going to look bad,” Pinder said via telephone Tuesday, as he confirmed several details of the trip that had been previously provided to the KSAT 12 Defenders.

Austin mayor criticized for recording stay home message while vacationing in Cabo

Photos shared by a family member on Facebook show Pinder leaving for the trip in late November and taking part in a fishing expedition on Dec. 2.

That same day, the CDC issued a Level 4 travel warning, its highest level, for the Dominican Republic and described the number of coronavirus cases there as “very high.” The warning also advised against any travel to the country.

Pinder, who also serves as Guadalupe County’s fire marshal, is in charge of providing public updates on the number of COVID-19 cases there.

He said Tuesday he has also spent a significant amount of time making sure personal protective equipment gets to people who need it since the pandemic began.

Pinder said he was tested for COVID-19 upon his arrival in the Dominican Republic and the test came back negative.

He said he followed social distancing guidelines while on the trip, including using hand sanitizer, and stayed home for four days before going back to work after returning from the trip.

Pinder said Tuesday he has no coronavirus symptoms but does plan to get tested again soon.

Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Guadalupe County has had at least 87 people die of COVID-19 as of December 6, according to data provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

As of Tuesday, the Dominican Republic had 149,630 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,347 confirmed deaths, according to figures provided by the U.S. Embassy there.

The confirmation of Pinder’s trip comes less than a week after Austin Mayor Steve Adler was heavily criticized for encouraging residents of that city to avoid traveling in a video message recorded while Adler was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.