Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually

Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE has invited hundreds of people to an indoor event at the State Department, despite a notice issued by the department last week that instructed employees to change “non-mission critical events” to virtual gatherings.

Pompeo will be hosting the event with his wife, Susan Pompeo, on the eighth floor of the State Department on Dec. 15, The Washington Post reported.

Two U.S. officials close to the matter told the Post that invitations to 900 people have already been sent. The event has already brought up concerns that it could quickly become a superspreader event.

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A spokesperson for the State Department told The Hill in a statement that the event is being held to honor family members of officials serving abroad since diplomats typically do not travel home for the holiday season.

The spokesperson said all public health protocols would be adhered to during the events.

"All attendees will be required to wear masks, and social distancing guidelines will be implemented to ensure space between attendees," read the statement. "The Department will have temperature checks via forehead scanning machines at the entrance to all events, in addition to numerous hand-sanitizing towers throughout the spaces. Additionally, all proper food and beverage safety precautions will be taken by catering services and staff – all will wear gloves and masks and any food or beverage will be served individually."

The spokesperson would not confirm if 900 guests had been invited or whether anyone from outside Washington, D.C., would attend.

"We’ve taken every precaution to thin out the number of individuals in all spaces at one time, and plan to keep outdoors space open and available to attendees, weather permitting," the spokesperson said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned Americans against traveling for the holiday season, fearing gatherings of families will spread COVID-19. Cases have skyrocketed across the country, and CDC Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday said the next three months could be the most challenging for public health in U.S. history.

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Christmas parties at the White House, which appears to have hosted previous superspreader events, are expected to move forward.

This White House is reportedly planning at least 25 holiday parties over the coming weeks, all of which will include more than 50 guests.

On Wednesday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany dismissed any concerns regarding the parties.

"If you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party," McEnany told reporters during a press briefing.

D.C. currently limits indoor holiday gatherings to only 10 people, 25 if the celebration is held outdoors. These rules do not apply to federal buildings, though they are located in the city.

The CDC has repeatedly asked people to avoid traveling or gathering this holiday season. Health experts fear the Thanksgiving celebrations that took place last week could result in a nationwide superspreader event.