Obama scales back planned 60th birthday bash on Martha’s Vineyard, citing spread of delta variant
By John Wagner and Lateshia Beachum,
Former president Barack Obama has decided to significantly scale back a celebrity-studded 60th birthday bash planned for Saturday on Martha’s Vineyard, citing the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
“The outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public guidelines and covid safeguards in place,” Hannah Hankins, a spokeswoman for the former president, said in a statement. “Due to the new spread of the Delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends.”
Hankins added that Obama is “appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”
The decision followed a spate of news coverage Tuesday that raised questions about both the safety and optics of an event that was expected to draw hundreds of former Obama administration officials, Democratic donors and celebrities, reportedly including George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Among those critical of the Obamas’ planned party was Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who on Tuesday called it “not a good idea” and said he would not attend if he had been invited.
Massachusetts recently tweaked its face-covering guidelines for indoor settings per federal recommendations after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that three-quarters of people infected during a coronavirus outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., were fully vaccinated.
Dukes County, home to Martha’s Vineyard, has a moderate level of community transmission and is about 100 miles south of Provincetown.
Obama associates said that all of Obama’s guests would have had to provide a negative result of a coronavirus test taken in a window specified by a coronavirus coordinator to ensure that safety protocols were followed.
Before the cancellation, a White House spokesman said that President Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, would not attend the soiree at the nearly 30-acre oceanside estate.
“He looks forward to catching up with former president Obama soon and properly welcoming him into the over-60 club,” the spokesman said.
The Obamas have been vocal advocates of following public health protocols and stressing the importance of vaccination.
“We all want to be with our family and friends again, and the best way to make that happen is by getting the vaccine as soon it’s available to you,” the former first lady said in April.
Last week, Obama, the 44th president, tweeted about how the coronavirus has become more contagious, emphasizing the need for more people to become inoculated.