Barack Obama plans massive birthday party as Delta variant of Covid-19 surges across US

Monday - 02/08/2021 13:50
Former US president Barack Obama is copping it over his plan to host a massive gathering while the Delta variant surges.

Former US president Barack Obama is planning a massive birthday party for himself with hundreds of guests, despite the surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

Mr Obama turns 60 on August 4, and it seems he intends to celebrate in style.

According to Axios, the party will happen this weekend at Martha’s Vineyard, an island in Massachusetts where the Obamas own a $US12 million, 30-acre property.

There are 475 confirmed guests, including friends, family and former aides, and more than 200 members of staff.

Some big names are also expected to attend, among them Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg. Pearl Jam will play at the party.

Safety measures are being put in place, overseen by a covid co-ordinator. It will be outdoors and all guests have been asked to be vaccinated. Axios also says the guests will be tested for the virus.

The Obamas are asking attendees to consider donating to a worthy cause instead of spending money on gifts.

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Barack Obama. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Barack Obama. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP


The context here is that US covid infections are at their highest point in months.

America is currently averaging 70,000 cases a day, and on Friday it broke 100,000 cases for the first time since February.

That’s a result of the more infectious Delta variant, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of new infections.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, advised Americans against holding huge gatherings yesterday.

“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 piont we need to put masks on to be next to each other,” Dr Collins told CNN.

“But if there were 100 people, how are you really going to be sure about people’s vaccination status?”

Given that advice, the former president’s decision to host a party with several hundred guests has drawn criticism.

“Imagine for a moment that Donald Trump was throwing a massive birthday party for himself and 475 conservative friends in Martha’s Vineyard next weekend,” broadcaster Piers Morgan wrote today.

“I think we all know what Trump’s liberal critics would say: that it’s shamefully selfish, incredibly reckless, and a former president of the United States should be setting a better example to the American people at such a perilous time. And they would be right.”

Morgan cited his own experience of attending the Euros final between England and Italy on July 11. Attendees were meant to provide evidence of either vaccination or a negative covid test before being allowed in.

But Morgan, and many others, ended up catching the virus. He was fully vaccinated.

“What the sequence of events showed me is that no mass gathering is covid-safe. It only takes one infected person to turn big events into superspreaders,” he said.

“Frankly, the optics of this event couldn’t be worse for someone like Obama, who’s always prided himself on taking public health seriously and leading by example.

“Yet at the precise moment America’s most high profile leaders should be setting a good example, Barack Obama is doing the complete opposite.”

Meanwhile, health officials are struggling to convince hesitant Americans to get vaccinated.

While half the eligible population is now fully vaccinated and about two-thirds of people have been given at least one dose, the pace of the vaccine rollout has slowed considerably from its peak, when the country was averaging three million shots per day.

Having dropped to an average of just 500,000 a day last month, the vaccination rate has since increased gradually, and is now sitting at around 650,000.

All evidence indicates the vaccines are working: less than 1 per cent of people who died from covid in recent months had received the shot.

Health officials are focused on persuading the hesitant.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said repeatedly.

“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk, and the communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.

“The good news is that if you’re fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe covid, hospitalisation and death, and are even protected against the known variants, including the Delta variant.

“If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk. And our biggest concern is that we’re going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated.”

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Mr Obama has been vaccinated. He has reportedly asked guests at his party to be vaccinated as well. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Mr Obama has been vaccinated. He has reportedly asked guests at his party to be vaccinated as well.
Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP


On top of that, late last week the media got its hands on an internal CDC document that suggests vaccinated people infected by the Delta variant may be able to spread it, as they have viral loads similar to the unvaccinated.

Breakthrough infections, thankfully, are rare, and when they happen the vaccinated individual is far more likely to experience mild symptoms, or be entirely asymptomatic, than someone who is unvaccinated.

The internal data helped guide the CDC to issue new guidance calling for everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to wear face masks in areas of high risk.

Martha’s Vineyard is not classified as one of those areas.

In a statement to Axios, the White House did not express any concern about Mr Obama’s birthday party.

“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,” it said.


 Keywords: Barack Obama, Obama

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