Barack Obama has significantly shrunk the guest list for his 60th birthday party after receiving criticism for planning the 500-person event as the Delta variant surges and breakthrough cases in vaccinated people continues to spike.
The event was meant to be a huge soiree for the former president to ring in his 60s, but instead will now only include close friends and family, Obama’s spokesperson said in a statement obtained by DailyMail.com.
‘This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with covid safeguards in place,’ spokesperson Hannah Hankins said in a statement on the change of plans.
‘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,’ the former president’s spokesperson continued.
‘President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.’
Barack Obama has scaled back his 500-person 60th birthday party this upcoming weekend to a low key celebration with close friends and family. The former president poses with (from left) wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia on Thanksgiving Day on November 27, 2019
The massive soiree was supposed to be held this upcoming weekend outdoors in the 30-acres surrounding the Obamas’ $12 million waterfront property on Martha’s Vineyard island
Obama turned 60 today and planned to celebrate the occasion over the weekend with hundreds of his former administration officials, celebrities and Democratic donors with a massive party on Martha’s Vineyard island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Many guests, according to The New York Times, were already en route to the island on the ferry from the mainland.
Among the 475 guests expected to attend the event this weekend were actor George Clooney, director Steven Spielberg and notorious talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the New York Post reported.
Along with a star-studded guest list, the party was going to feature a performance by Pearl Jam. A local hairdresser was even reportedly hired to style one of the Pearl Jam member’s hair before their big performance.
President Joe Biden never intended to go to the party, as he already had a beach trip planned to his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which he is traveling to on Friday.
Instead of the big soiree, the former president will celebrate with only close friends and family at his 7,000-square-foot mansion in the Edgarton section of Martha’s Vineyard.
Before the scale back, the White House defended Obama’s plans on Monday.
‘I would note first that former President Obama has been a huge advocate of individuals getting vaccinated,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dodged when asked about her former boss’ big birthday bash.
The party, according to multiple reports, was supposed to take place outdoors on the Obamas’ $12 million 30-acre Martha’s Vineyard waterfront mansion. But as more plans became public this week, the former president came under fire for the tone deaf event as many areas of the country returned to pandemic restrictions, including mask mandates indoors.
There was also a ‘coronavirus coordinator’, who was making sure the event was compliant with the most recent CDC guidance. Guests were required to take coronavirus tests and submit their results to the medical ‘coronavirus coordinator’ to gain entry to the Obama compound.
Psaki on Monday defended the event since it was planned for outside.
‘What CDC has provided guidance on is for indoor settings in high or substantial high zones of COVID cases. This event according to all the public reporting is outdoors and in a moderate zone,’ she explained to Fox News reporter Peter Doocey at the White House briefing on Monday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended on Monday Obama’s decision to hold a potential super spreader birthday party in the midst of a massive COVID-19 Delta variant surge
Doocey pushed, claiming the event could lead to a superspreader considering the rise in Delta variant cases and breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals.
‘The guidance is about what steps people can take when they are in public settings, indoor settings specifically was the new guidance, to keep themselves and others safe,’Psaki reiterated. ‘In terms of what protocols they are taking, I would refer you to them, and I’m sure they can give you more detail.’
The Fox News reporter asked if this would send the wrong message to Americans that they should now hold their own massive parties since Obama is doing so.
‘We certainly advise everyone to follow public health guidelines, which, I know, the former president – who is a huge advocate of getting vaccinated, of following the guidance of public health experts – would certainly advocate for himself as well,’ she concluded.
Psaki, who previously worked for Obama before joining Biden’s administration, said she would refer people ‘to the team that’s working for my former boss to give you more specifics of what protocols are in place.’
President Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president for eight years, never intended to attend the party as he has plans to go to his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware this weekend
Despite the massive guest list, Obama’s former vice president will not be attending the birthday bash.
A White House official told The Hill, according to a Monday report, that the president is ‘unable to attend this weekend.’
‘He looks forward to catching up with former President Obama soon and properly welcoming him into the over 60 club,’ the official said.
The massive party was amended to an intimate celebration as COVID cases continue to surge nationwide, with the Delta variant accounting for more than 80 per cent of all new infections.
A recent CDC study threatens to undermine the safety of the COVID protocols in place, however.
Three quarters of the coronavirus infections in a recent Massachusetts outbreak on Cape Cod were found to have been in people who are already fully vaccinated, the agency revealed at the end of July.
COVID cases have been rising throughout the country as a result of the delta variant
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on CNN that big parties should be avoided.
‘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?’
The Obama mansion on the northeastern island includes a large in-ground pool with some chaise loungers on the side to relax
There is also an outdoor table to enjoy some meals in the summer
The house includes seven bedrooms and has two separate wings
It sits on 30-acres, and provides some great ocean views
The Obamas’ spent some of their time in COVID quarantine at the Martha’s Vineyard property
There will also be a ‘COVID coordinator’ to ensure all proper protocols are being followed, but it remains unclear what proof of a negative COVID test or a vaccine will be required, and whether guests will be required to wear masks.
The party comes just one month after nearby Provincetown saw a surge in coronavirus cases from the July 4 holiday.
The New York Times reports that the community, at the tip of Cape Cod, was crowded with over 60,000 people, many of whom were maskless, during the holiday.
Officials did not worry about it, however, as the community had one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.
But since then, scientists have traced 965 cases to the gatherings, 238 of them involving Provincetown residents.
Fortunately, only seven people were hospitalized and no deaths were reported.
As a result of the outbreak, scientists discovered that vaccinated people who got breakthrough COVID cases had the same viral load as those who did not get the vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control once again recommended even those who are vaccinated continue wearing their masks indoors in areas with ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ spread.
Martha’s Vineyard does not qualify as an area of ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ risk, but Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has recommended that even vaccinated people wear face masks.
‘If you have a serious health condition or risk of developing a severe illness from COVID, you should take extreme precautions,’ the governor announced last week.
‘If you have a close friend or family members who have a serious risk of developing a severe disease or illness from COVID, you should take extra precautions.’
Deaths, however, have continued on a downward trajectory
About 57 percent of all Americans are now vaccinated against the coronavirus
As news of Obama’s party broke, some took to Twitter to call it irresponsible amidst a resurgence in COVID cases
Obama’s smaller-than-expected gathering this weekend is still expected to take place at the $11.57 million seven-bedroom home he and Michelle bought in 2019, which includes an in-ground pool and plenty of space to relax on warm summer days.
In lieu of gifts, Axios reports, guests are being asked to ‘consider giving to programs that work to support boys and young men of color, and their families here at home in the United States, empower adolescent girls around the world and equip the next generation of emerging community leaders.’
The former president and former first lady Michelle visited the island community in 2014