Pandemic or no pandemic, there are things about the holiday season that never change. Two of these things are Melania Trump’s eye for questionable seasonal decorations, and the packed calendar of holiday parties at the White House. That’s right, despite warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health professionals and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the president and first lady have plans for more than a dozen indoor holiday parties, surging case numbers be damned.
Each event will reportedly include more than 50 guests and, according to one official, most guests will not be tested in advance. The Washington Post has reported of the parties that many of the administration’s supporters have adopted a skeptical view of coronavirus restrictions and are choosing to attend regardless of spiking cases. In the last few weeks, states across the country have reported some of their highest daily confirmed cases, with fatalities across the U.S. surpassing 266,000. But no, a Trumpian Christmas party cannot be canceled. Making awkward conversation while juggling a drink and a tiny plate of hors d'oeuvres must go on! Superspreaders be damned!
Although health officials have repeatedly warned the White House against hosting indoor events, they have reportedly resigned themselves to the fact that Trump and his administration will do whatever they want and fly in the face of any warning or guideline that doesn’t suit them. And despite the immediate backlash to the decision, a spokesperson for Melania Trump said on Tuesday that precautions will be taken to protect party attendees.
“This includes smaller guest lists, masks will be required and available, social distancing encouraged while on the White House grounds, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the State Floor,” said spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham. “Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations. All passed beverages will be covered. All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food safety guidelines. Attending the parties will be a very personal choice.”
But before Grisham even issued this statement, the mentioned safety guidelines had already been ignored. On Monday, a reception for volunteers who helped decorate the White House did not adhere to social distancing and many did not wear masks. Meanwhile, invitees to other events will include senior staffers, family members of White House aides, donors, lawmakers, and prominent conservative supporters. Donald and Melania Trump are only expected to make appearances.
Still, it comes as no surprise that Trump and his administration are flouting the rules all the way until the end. A number of recent Trump-hosted events have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks, including a nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett as well as an election night party. Dozens at the White House, including the chief of staff, press secretary, national security adviser, and the president himself have all contracted the virus. Not to mention the more than 100 secret service members who contracted the virus.
“The White House is...sending out 2020 with a bang. Indoor gatherings like this at a time of high community spread of SARS-CoV2 puts revelers at the White House holiday party at risk, as well as staff who must work the event,” Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves told the Washington Post. “It’s characteristic of the responsibility that has defined this administration’s approach to the pandemic. It’s cavalier, selfie, and wrong.”
Some non-medical expert advice: No amount of Christmas cheer can prevent the spread of the coronavirus and hosting over a dozen holiday events during a global pandemic while everyone else is being forced to abandon beloved traditions to keep themselves, friends, and family safe is not a good look.