The White House defended on Monday Barack Obama’s upcoming 500-person 60th birthday party despite the rise in Delta variant and breakthrough cases – and after announcing President Joe Biden will not attend.
‘I would note first that former President Obama has been a huge advocate of individuals getting vaccinated,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dodged when asked about her former boss’ planned event.
Obama is holding a party at his Martha’s Vineyard mansion with a guest list of 500 as he rings in his 60s. The former president has come under fire for his plans despite a nationwide rise in COVID cases.
All guests will have to be COVID tested and vaccinated and the party will be held outdoors on the Obama’s $12 billion 30-acre waterfront property.
Psaki claims that while new mask mandates require vaccinated people wear masks when indoors, the upcoming event is reportedly entirely outside.
‘What CDC has provided guidance on is for indoor settings in high or substantial high zones of COVID cases. This event according to all the public reporting is outdoors and in a moderate zone,’ she explained to Fox News reporter Peter Doocey at the White House briefing on Monday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended on Monday former President Barack Obama’s decision to hold a potential super spreader birthday party in the midst of a massive COVID-19 Delta variant surge
Obama (right) is holding a 500-person party at his mansion in Martha’s Vineyard to celebrate his 60th birthday, which is on Wednesday. The former president played golf with former NBA player Alonzo Mourning on Martha’s Vineyard in 2014. He is now planning to hold his 60th birthday there
The party is planned to be held outside at the Obama’s $12 billion 30-acre waterfront property in Martha’s Vineyard
Doocey pushed, claimed the event could lead to a superspreader considering the rise in Delta variant cases and breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals.
‘The guidance is about what steps people can take when they are in public settings, indoor settings specifically was the new guidance, to keep themselves and others safe,’Psaki reiterated. ‘In terms of what protocols they are taking, I would refer you to them, and I’m sure they can give you more detail.’
The Fox News reporter asked if this would send the wrong message to Americans that they should now hold their own massive parties since Obama is doing so.
‘We certainly advise everyone to follow public health guidelines, which, I know, the former president – who is a huge advocate of getting vaccinated, of following the guidance of public health experts – would certainly advocate for himself as well,’ she concluded.
Psaki, who previously worked for Obama before joining Biden’s administration, said she would refer people ‘to the team that’s working for my former boss to give you more specifics of what protocols are in place.’
Joe Biden will reportedly not attend Obama’s party
Despite the massive guest list, Obama’s former vice president will not be attending the birthday bash.
A White House official told The Hill, according to a Monday report, that the president is ‘unable to attend this weekend.’
‘He looks forward to catching up with former President Obama soon and properly welcoming him into the over 60 club,’ the official said.
Obama turns 60 on Wednesday and is expected to celebrate over the weekend. On Friday Biden is traveling to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he has a holiday home.
The party is also being planned as COVID cases continue to surge nationwide, with the Delta variant accounting for more than 80 percent of all new infections.
A recent CDC study threatens to undermine the safety of the COVID protocols in place, however.
Three quarters of the coronavirus infections in a recent Massachusetts outbreak on Cape Cod were found to have been in people who are already fully vaccinated, the agency revealed at the end of July.
COVID cases have been rising throughout the country as a result of the delta variant
While he won’t be attending a White House official said Biden is looking forward to ‘welcoming him into the over 60 club’ (pictured in April 2014)
Obama is set to turn 60 on August 4, and is said to be planning a large soiree at his 7,000-square-foot mansion in the Edgarton section of Martha’s Vineyard next weekend.
An official familiar with the plans told Axios that there are now 475 confirmed guests for the party – including Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg – with more than 200 staff members.
But Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on CNN that big parties should be avoided.
‘If you’re talking about a small party like I might have at my house for six or eight people who are all fully vaccinated, I do not believe, at this point, we need to put masks on to be next to each other,’ he said.
‘But if there were 100 people, and, of course, how are you really going to be sure about people’s vaccination status?’
The Obama mansion on the northeastern island includes a large in-ground pool with some chaise loungers on the side to relax
There is also an outdoor table to enjoy some meals in the summer
The house includes seven bedrooms and has two separate wings
It sits on 30-acres, and provides some great ocean views
The Obamas’ spent some of their time in quarantine at the Martha’s Vineyard property
There will also be a ‘COVID coordinator’ to ensure all proper protocols are being followed, but it remains unclear what proof of a negative COVID test or a vaccine will be required, and whether guests will be required to wear masks.
The party comes just one month after nearby Provincetown saw a surge in coronavirus cases from the July 4 holiday.
The New York Times reports that the community, at the tip of Cape Cod, was crowded with over 60,000 people, many of whom were maskless, during the holiday.
Officials did not worry about it, however, as the community had one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.
But since then, scientists have traced 965 cases to the gatherings, 238 of them involving Provincetown residents.
Fortunately, only seven people were hospitalized and no deaths were reported.
As a result of the outbreak, scientists discovered that vaccinated people who got breakthrough COVID cases had the same viral load as those who did not get the vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control once again recommended even those who are vaccinated continue wearing their masks indoors in areas with ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ spread.
Martha’s Vineyard does not qualify as an area of ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ risk, but Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has recommended that even vaccinated people wear face masks.
‘If you have a serious health condition or risk of developing a severe illness from COVID, you should take extreme precautions,’ the governor announced last week.
‘If you have a close friend or family members who have a serious risk of developing a severe disease or illness from COVID, you should take extra precautions.’
Deaths, however, have continued on a downward trajectory
About 57 percent of all Americans are now vaccinated against the coronavirus
As news of Obama’s party broke, some took to Twitter to call it irresponsible amidst a resurgence in COVID cases
Obama’s party will take place next weekend at the $11.57 million seven-bedroom home he and Michelle bought in 2019, which includes an in-ground pool and plenty of space to relax on warm summer days.
The party will also feature a performance by Pearl Jam.
A spokesperson for the former first family told The Sun the guest list ‘includes a number of family members and friends to mark the occasion,’ but The Hill reports guests include Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg.
A local hairdresser was also reportedly hired to style one of the Pearl Jam member’s hair before their big performance.
In lieu of gifts, Axios reports, guests are being asked to ‘consider giving to programs that work to support boys and young men of color, and their families here at home in the United States, empower adolescent girls around the world and equip the next generation of emerging community leaders.’
The party is reportedly being paid for by the Obamas’ personal funds.
The former president and former first lady Michelle visited the island community in 2014
In 2014, Obama accepted the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassadors for Humanity Award from Honorary Chair Steven Spielberg, who is said to be coming to Obama’s 60th birthday party
Pearl Jam is expected to perform at the party, with the Obamas hiring a local hairdresser to style one of the band members’ hair