White House hosts even more parties despite its latest virus outbreak


Weeks after a third outbreak infected some of Trump's closest staffers, the White House is powering forward with its holiday plans.

The White House is still planning indoor holiday gatherings against advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Donald Trump's own surgeon general has reinforced, and not long after a third outbreak of coronavirus plagued several of Trump's closest staffers and Cabinet members.

Amid a still-raging coronavirus pandemic, the CDC noted last week: "Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving."

The health and safety guidelines "apply to the White House" as well, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on ABC News.

"We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be super-spreader events," he noted.

But the White House is forging ahead with its holiday plans regardless.

At least three formal invitations to holiday celebrations at the White House have been sent out, including in-person holiday receptions on Nov. 30, Dec. 2, and a Hanukkah reception on Dec. 9.

The physical invitations did not appear to mention any public health precautions, though Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman and chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, told ABC News that this year's events will take place at least partly indoors, which goes against the CDC's recommendations to host outdoor holiday gatherings when possible.

Grisham did say that this year will include "smaller guest lists," hand sanitation stations, "required and available" masks, and recommended social distancing.

"Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations" and "all passed beverages will be covered," Grisham told the outlet. "All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food-safety guidelines."

"Attending the parties will be a very personal choice," she said.

As ABC noted, it was not immediately clear how strictly safety measures would be enforced, however.

The decision to move forward with holiday celebrations also comes weeks after a third outbreak of coronavirus at the White House, in which both Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, who returned to work last week, were both infected.

Carson and David Bossie, Trump's campaign adviser, tested positive for COVID-19 around two weeks ago. Both attended an election night party with few masks or social distancing. Meadows, four other White House officials, and campaign adviser Nick Trainer also tested positive for the virus around Election Day.

Weeks earlier, in October, multiple aides to Vice President Mike Pence also tested positive for the virus, forcing him to quarantine. That outbreak followed a September superspreader event in the White House Rose Garden to announce the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett where attendees were largely unmasked and minimally socially distanced.

The White House is powering ahead with its plans despite those outbreaks.

On Monday, Melania Trump welcomed the official White House Christmas tree. According to CNN, the White House still plans to have in-person volunteers decorate the tree, though the number will be "dramatically scaled back due to COVID-19 guidelines."

"When volunteers do arrive to begin the work of installing ornaments, wall décor, lights and garlands, they will wear masks and remain socially distant, per White House rules outlined in the volunteer application form," the outlet wrote.

Trump will also move forward with the traditional pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey at the White House on Tuesday, an annual tradition. It's unclear whether that event will include an in-person crowd.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.