Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife have sent out around 900 invitations for one of several indoor holiday parties at the State Department, despite the coronavirus pandemic and bleak warnings from public health officials to avoid large gatherings, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The event, called “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays,” is set to take place on Dec. 15 on the 8th floor of the State Department building in Washington, D.C. The Post reported that event planners were told to disregard official health guidance despite Pompeo’s own agency recommending employees change all “non-mission critical events” to “virtual” meetings rather than in-person gatherings.
The State Department released a statement late Wednesday amid the report, saying: “We plan to fully enforce social distancing measures at this reception, and face coverings are mandatory for admittance.”
“We’ve taken every precaution to thin out the number of individuals in all spaces at one time, and plan to keep outdoors space open and available to attendees, weather permitting,” the spokesperson added in a comment to The Hill.
The U.S. is in the midst of the worst phase of the pandemic so far. More than 100,000 people were hospitalized with the virus and 200,000 others tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, both record highs, and the country was on track to have its highest one-day death toll on Wednesday as well.
More than 270,000 people nationwide have died of COVID-19 so far, and the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that figure could almost double by early next year if trends continue.
“I do think, unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans who’ve died from this virus,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said this week.
Large events in Washington have already been linked to mass outbreaks of the coronavirus that have spread through the Trump administration, the halls of Congress and beyond. President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus after a large gathering celebrating the nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26. Few people were seen wearing masks or socially distancing at the event.
Pompeo has a predilection for lavish events. Earlier this year, he came under scrutiny for hosting about two dozen taxpayer-funded events at the State Department during his tenure that featured powerful Republican lawmakers and conservative Fox News hosts.
The events were dubbed the “Madison Dinners” and hosted by Pompeo and his wife, Susan, in historic diplomatic reception rooms, according to an investigation by NBC News.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to host at least 20 holiday parties this season at the White House.
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