Story at a glance
- The White House is expected to hold more than 20 holiday events this month.
- Public health officials have largely urged Americans to avoid large gatherings.
- The Washington Post reports each event will include more than 50 guests, most of whom will not be tested in advance. One such event on Tuesday night included several attendees who were not wearing masks and crowded together, according to NBC News.
The White House is scheduled to hold as many as 20 indoor holiday events this month despite an alarming surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and guidance from public health officials to avoid large indoor gatherings this holiday season.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance recommending people spend the holiday only with those living in the same household and suggested celebrations be held outdoors if possible as the coronavirus raged out of control.
During an interview just ahead of the holiday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded with Americans to avoid large holiday gatherings as the U.S. is at a “dire point” in the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Wednesday, a record 98,691 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across the country while the rolling seven-day average of deaths has surpassed 1,500.
But the White House has moved forward with annual holiday events as the outbreak continues, ignoring warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health officials and a pandemic that has left more than 273,000 Americans dead.
The events kicked off Monday after first lady Melania Trump unveiled Christmas decorations.
The Washington Post reports each event will include more than 50 guests, most of whom will not be tested in advance. One such event on Tuesday night included several attendees who were not wearing masks and crowded together, according to NBC News.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday dismissed the health concerns associated with the events.
“If you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party,” McEnany said during a White House briefing.
“You can celebrate the holiday of Christmas, and you can do it responsibly,” she said.
Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff, said in a statement on Wednesday that the White House is providing the “safest environment possible” by having a smaller guest list and mask requirements while encouraging social distancing.
Meanwhile, the head of the CDC warned the U.S. could see another 200,000 coronavirus deaths over the next three months if people don’t take mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing seriously.
“The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said Wednesday.
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