Obama scales back 60th birthday bash over COVID surge

Washington — Former President Barack Obama has changed plans for his 60th birthday party set to take place in Martha’s Vineyard this weekend, cutting down the event’s guest list as the Delta variant drives a surge in coronavirus infections.

“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,” Hannah Hankins, a spokesperson for Mr. Obama, said in a statement. “President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

The outdoor event was planned several months ago in accordance with public health guidelines, she said.

Axios reported Monday that Mr. Obama was planning to host “hundreds of guests” at the 60th birthday celebration at his home on Martha’s Vineyard. The news outlet said guests were asked to be vaccinated and to submit a negative COVID-19 test within a specified time frame before the soiree. 

A White House spokesperson told Axios that President Biden could not attend, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that the administration advises “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.”

The New York Post reported actor George Clooney, director Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey were among the invitees to Mr. Obama’s party.

The highly contagious Delta variant has driven a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and the surge prompted officials in several cities and states to reinstate COVID-19 protocols, including mask requirements, to combat the spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week updated its mask guidance to encourage all Americans, vaccinated and unvaccinated, in areas with “substantial or high transmission” to wear masks indoors.

Massachusetts is among the states reporting an increase in coronavirus cases, and the level of community transmission in Dukes County, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, is considered “substantial,” according to the CDC.