Trump defends holding holiday parties amid pandemic
President Trump on Tuesday shrugged off concerns about the White House’s decision to hold holiday parties during the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing the availability of face masks for guests and other measures.
“They’re Christmas parties, and, frankly, we’ve reduced the number very substantially, as you know,” Trump told reporters during an event on coronavirus vaccines. “I see a lot of people at the parties wearing masks, and I would say that I look out at the audience at those parties, and we have a lot of people wearing masks, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The White House began hosting annual parties celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah last week, even as public health officials discourage Americans from participating in large gatherings during the holiday season.
The White House said officials are taking safety precautions, including reducing guest lists, encouraging mask use and physical distancing, providing hand sanitizer, serving food on individual plates, and covering passed beverages. The Washington Post reported last week that the parties would include more than 50 guests each.
While Trump suggested on Tuesday that mask use was widespread, video posted by a guest at a party last Tuesday showed minimal mask usage. Trump, who himself contracted the coronavirus in October, seldom wears a mask in public.
The Hill reported earlier Tuesday that Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign legal adviser, tested positive for COVID-19. She traveled with Rudy Giuliani, who has also been diagnosed with the coronavirus, last week and posted a photo of herself at a White House holiday party without a mask on Friday.
More than 15 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 285,000 have died due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cases and hospitalizations are currently on the rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has discouraged Americans from traveling during the holiday season and has recommended against large gatherings of people.
Asked what his message was to Americans given that cases are rising, Trump fleetingly mentioned the CDC guidelines before touting the progress on vaccine development.
“CDC puts out their guidelines, and they’re very important guidelines, but I think this … I think that the vaccine was our goal. That was the number one because that was the way it ends,” Trump said, adding that individuals who have contracted and recovered from the virus also develop immunity.
Trump, who has regularly minimized the threat posed by the coronavirus, went on to falsely attribute the current rise in cases to an increase in testing, something he does frequently.
President-elect Joe Biden last week implored Americans not to travel or gather with family during the upcoming holidays, noting that he kept his Thanksgiving to just four people and interacted with his other family members on Zoom.