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‘What happened to mask mandates?’: Obama ignores pandemic, plans celebrity-filled birthday bash with hundreds

‘What happened to mask mandates?’: Obama ignores pandemic, plans celebrity-filled birthday bash with hundreds
Despite worries from health officials about a Covid-19 resurgence driven by the Delta variant, former president Barack Obama will be hosting his star-studded 60th birthday bash with hundreds in attendance.

Obama himself has been one of many public figures warning people that Covid-19 is “more contagious” now thanks to the Delta variant, which health officials say is behind upticks in cases in numerous states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its mask guidance, stating that even vaccinated Americans should be masking up in areas with rising cases. Multiple counties have reinstated mask mandates and recommendations, including Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where Obama’s 60th will be held, is not directly in what the CDC recognizes as a high-risk area (it’s classed as ‘moderate’ risk), but nearby Provincetown has seen an uptick in cases and became the center of a study that was reportedly behind the CDC’s recent reversal on masks. 

The new cases looked at in the study came from “summer events and public gatherings.” Health officials have also warned that they are concerned the Delta variant can still be spread by vaccinated individuals. 

According to a report from The Hill, Obama’s party will be held outdoors and guests will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination, but there is no word on how thoroughly these things will be checked as numerous celebrities will be in attendance – and will no doubt traveling from around the country to get there.

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The recent Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, Illinois was another large outdoor gathering, though it had thousands in attendance, and plenty of celebrities, but images from the event caused immediate concern and confusion, as few wore masks at the venue and all were packed fairly tight. 

To make matters worse, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had warned days before that new mask mandates and restrictions could be coming if the amount of daily Covid-19 cases consistently went above 200, something numerous critics predicted based on the event – where even the mayor herself was seen avoiding masking up.

Obama’s plans for his celebration have caused similar confusion and outrage.

“The Obama bash – taking place after a nearby Delta outbreak in Provincetown, as millions face evictions after Obama presided over a massive foreclose crisis – sounds great!” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

Others similarly brought up the contrast between the fancy party and the expiration of the pandemic-era eviction moratorium numerous Democrats have claimed to be fighting against. 

Approximately 700 people will reportedly attend Obama’s birthday (475 guests, plus 200 staff), including Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, according to sources cited by The Hill. The band Pearl Jam will also be performing. 

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, warned CNN on Sunday about the dangers of holding large gatherings.

“If you’re talking about a small party like I might have at my house for six or eight people who are all fully vaccinated, I do not believe, at this point, we need to put masks on to be next to each other,” he said. “But if there were 100 people, and, of course, how are you really going to be sure about people’s vaccination status?”

A White House spokesperson, however, expressed no concern about Obama’s gathering in a statement about the event to Axios.

“While President Biden is unable to attend this weekend, he looks forward to catching up with former President Obama soon and properly welcoming him into the over-sixty club,” the spokesperson said. 

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