X-mas in the White House 2020

Nika Anderson, reporter

As the holiday season progresses, the White House has up to 25 indoor celebrations scheduled this month alone. Before December started, Melania Trump hosted a “thank you” party for the volunteers who helped decorate the White House for the festivities on Nov. 30. Although they were tested for COVID-19, they were seen tightly packed in the White House Cross Hall foyer, with many not wearing masks, according to social media images. With the death toll climbing past 250,000, the fate of the nation depends on the decisions of these officials.

These gatherings are typically hosted by President Donald Trump along with first lady Melania Trump. Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence celebrated a Christmas party at the Naval Observatory on Dec. 2 with members of the Secret Service and their families. However, images Mike Pence posted on Twitter show many maskless people clustered closely together. Trump’s lawyer Jenna Ellis tested positive on Dec. 8 from a senior staff Christmas party in the East Wing which she attended four days earlier, with no facial covering. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has conducted a holiday reception for the State Department, inviting hundreds of people on Dec. 8. The Hanukkah celebration with nearly 200 attendees took place on Dec. 9; most of whom were crowding together around a maskless Trump. The annual Congressional Ball, which occurred on Dec. 10, included over 50 guests. 

Since the White House is on federal government property, it is exempt from COVID-19 restrictions, which has significantly contributed to the spread of the virus. This poses a challenge to the District of Columbia government’s efforts to contain COVID-19. Trump is confident that he is carrying out his holiday plans responsibly and safely, although most invitations to the White House made no reference to any COVID-19 related safety precautions. Images and videos from social media show most of the guests in large numbers and in close proximity of each other.

However, Chief of staff and spokeswoman to First Lady Melania Trump, Stephanie Grisham, says that health safety protocols are in place. Grisham claims that guest lists are reduced, hand sanitizer stations are available throughout the State Floor, masks are provided and required, and social distancing measures are in effect for the occasions. She also mentions that food is individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations and that passed beverages are covered, along with service staff being masked and gloved. Grisham remarks that those attending the party are “a very personal choice.” Albeit Grisham suggests these guidelines, rampant sightings of invitees without masks continue.

The CDC says that observing events such as receptions, celebrations, dinners, galas, and other indoor gatherings could rapidly spread COVID-19 in these environments, especially when protocols aren’t being complied to. Despite Trump saying “Every American who wants the Covid vaccine will get it,”health officials say that it may take months until the vaccine reaches the general population. Moreover, Dr. Anthony Fauci states that these indoor gatherings can cause another surge in COVID-19 cases and noted that infections can also emerge from even a gathering of 10 people. Fauci will not engage in a family Christmas celebration this year, as he opted for a Zoom party. He will also be turning 80 on Christmas Eve.