Bad news: D.C. party scene in crisis following backlash over Obama's Martha's Vineyard bash

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

We should all be thanking him. Because of the poor “optics” of O throwing himself a celebrity birthday blowout while Delta was overrunning the country, an untold number of infections among Washingtonians will now never happen.

He’ll end up having broken countless chains of transmission in our nation’s capital by showing other elite narcissists what sort of media coverage awaits if they press ahead with their festivities.

To be clear, it’s the public perception of parties that’s scaring Washingtonians away from throwing them, not the actual risk of those parties becoming superspreader events. We should all have realized at this point that D.C. politicians don’t give a rip about containing COVID when an opportunity to gather en masse and have fun presents itself.

“Who wants to throw a party right now when Obama hired a doctor to make sure everyone’s vaccinated and passes a Covid test and he still gets shamed for it?” said JOHN ARUNDEL, former associate publisher of Washington Life magazine and managing director of Perdicus Communications.

“I just think there’s a stigma to throwing any kind of event,” he added. “The optics of throwing the party or being at the party, it can be chilling.”…

Obama’s party “created an awareness,” [The Hill editor Steve] Clemons added, especially “when you see so many Americans struggling with [Delta], and hospitals filling up.”…

“What we could do six weeks ago, we can’t do now,” said Democratic strategist ADRIENNE ELROD, the director of surrogate strategy for JOE BIDEN’s 2020 campaign. “We have to be so cognizant because Republicans are looking for any reason to call us hypocrites or to call us liars.”

If you’re throwing a maskless party while urging the hoi polloi to mask up and avoid mass gatherings then — hear me out — maybe you are a liar and a hypocrite. But spare a thought for these poor people, whose busy social calendars of rubbing elbows with political leaders and rich lobbyists will be a little less busy, or at least lower profile, for the next few months.

The Obama party was held on August 7, almost two weeks ago. Two weeks is the maximum amount of time that a COVID infection might take to develop, per the CDC. That means we should have a sense by now of whether Obama’s party turned out to be a superspreader event, as some feared. Let’s check in on the case trends in Dukes County, Massachusetts. Hmmmmm:

Andrew Stiles, tongue in cheek, blamed the surging COVID problem on Martha’s Vineyard on the “Obama variant.” Hospitals on the island are stressed:

“This is the highest amount of Covid-positive patient activity that we’ve had since the onset of the pandemic,” Ms. Seguin said at the briefing…

Hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici said the uptick in Covid hospitalizations and cases has also been paired with a rise in non-Covid related hospital business, particularly in the emergency room. Wait times for non-emergency treatment can stretch as long as two to three hours, she said.

“The increase in cases is also coming at a very busy time for the hospital,” Ms. Schepici said. “We’re bursting at the seams.”

They had 87 cases on the island last week, the third week in a row in which cases have nearly doubled. Since the pandemic began, they’ve had only two weeks with more cases. Proof that Obama’s party ended up being a big COVID bath for attendees?

Well … not really. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times, three new clusters were reported last week and none involved the Obama event. The precautions taken — everyone vaccinated, everyone with a recent negative test, party held outside in ventilated tents — may have been enough to prevent any outbreaks.

I say “may” because most of the guests live elsewhere in the country and will have taken any viral party favors they received back home with them. But it wouldn’t be surprising if members of the serving staff live on the island. And if there was an outbreak at their company, presumably MV health authorities would know.

The fact that O managed to hold his party successfully, without causing a rash of infections, should make Washingtonians more willing to hold parties rather than less. But it would be hard for them to justify that when the general consensus from the public health bureaucracy is to avoid any unnecessary socializing in the age of Delta. If the average joe is being asked to give up his fun, the ruling class that’s asking them has to do so too.

In lieu of an exit question, read this Times story about the prevalence of plastic barriers in schools and shops designed to reduce the transmission of COVID. They’re … exactly as effective as you’d guess they are.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022