- According to The Washington Post, large-scale holiday parties are being planned at the State Department, with one invitation sent out to 900 potential attendees.
- In Washington, DC, indoor gatherings are recommended to be limited to 10 people maximum.
- However, in a statement, the State Department told Business Insider it is following its own Diplomacy Strong guidelines as well as CDC guidelines.
- Staffers and public health experts who spoke to The Post cited concerns about the gatherings becoming new superspreader events in the midst of the surging COVID-19 pandemic.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Large holiday parties are being planned at the US State Department despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
According to holiday gathering invitations obtained by The Post, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s office has sent out numerous December party invitations to diplomats and staff.
Invitations for one December 15 event — titled, “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” and to be held in the department’s Benjamin Franklin room — have already gone out to 900 people, according to unnamed US officials who spoke with The Post.
A day after that gathering, the State Department is planning to host a reception for the Washington Diplomatic Corps, and invites have been sent to over 180 foreign ambassadors, who can bring their spouses, according to sources who spoke with The Post.
These gatherings are at odds with a message from leadership sent last week to employees, which requests to change “any non-mission critical events” to “virtual events as opposed to in-person gatherings.”
Currently in Washington, DC, and per CDC guidelines, indoor gathering sizes are recommended to include a maximum of 10 people. Following potential spikes in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving, the CDC has urged Americans not to travel for Christmas.
A State Department spokesperson told Business Insider that, “We plan to follow all Diplomacy Strong guidelines in compliance with health officials’ guidance.”
The statement referenced the CDC guidelines as well as the State Department’s internal “Diplomacy Strong” guidelines. Per those guidelines, in the Phase II restrictions, attendees are only recommended to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, but the spokesperson said that for December events attendees will be required to wear masks. Temperatures will also be taken for attendees and health guidelines will be emailed beforehand, per the statement.
Staffers who spoke anonymously to The Post, as well as public health experts, cited concerns for the December events becoming new superspreader events at the White House, after Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation event on the White House lawn and following several COVID-19 outbreaks within Trump’s administration.
Adding that certain events would be split into two or three rooms, the spokesperson added that, “We do not anticipate any problems in monitoring the number of individuals in these indoor spaces or exceeded the allotted numbers for indoor gatherings, per the Diplomacy Strong ‘Phase 2’ guidelines. “
No further explanation by the State Department was provided as to how either CDC or Diplomacy Strong guidelines would be enforced for a gathering of up to 900 people for both attendees and serving staff.