A State Department spokesman said the “Holiday Cheer” reception that typically follows the tour was canceled this year because of concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus, but two bars were set up in the guesthouse as the face-shield-wearing catering staff poured drinks into holiday-themed paper cups. Guests unmasked to consume the beverages, causing people to congregate and create occasional choke points, the two officials told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
About 200 guests attended, among them the ambassadors of Afghanistan, Egypt, South Korea and Guatemala, officials said.
The tour is one of several holiday functions the State Department is hosting this week and next week even as the Trump administration’s own health experts implore Americans to limit travel and avoid large gatherings amid a pandemic that has killed at least 285,000 people and infected 15 million across the country.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is hosting two receptions next week — including one with an invitation list of more than 900 — which some lawmakers have called on him to cancel.