Mike Pompeo Is Throwing a 900-Person Indoor Holiday Party as COVID-19 Deaths Approach a “9/11 Every Single Day”
“Health Officials Fear ‘Horrific’ COVID-19 Surge Is About to Get Worse.” “U.S. Hits Record Daily Death Toll, With Worse Likely to Come.” “America Is Careening Towards a Pandemic Nightmare Scenario.” These are a mere sliver of the headlines concerning the extremely bad, fully terrifying situation the U.S. is facing with regard to the coronavirus currently ravaging the country. Hospitals are overrun. Doctors and nurses have been pushed to the brink. On Wednesday alone, more people died of COVID-19 than did during Pearl Harbor. “By this time next week, we are going to be talking about 3,000 deaths a day—that’s 9/11 every single day,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN on Wednesday. Knowing all this, as he undoubtedly does, you might think that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would make his department’s holiday parties socially distant, weather-permitting outdoor affairs; or move them online; or even go hog wild and outright cancel them. Instead he’s decided to do none of that, the only small tweak being that rather than dressing up as Santa, he’ll be going as the Grim Reaper.
Yes, as the U.S. heads toward an unthinkable winter, one of the most powerful people in the federal government is…throwing an indoor holiday party that almost 1,000 people have been invited to, after expressing apparently faux concern about lower-level staffers hosting events that go against CDC guidance. Per The Washington Post:
Following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases across the country, State Department leadership sent out a notice to employees one week ago recommending that “any non-mission critical events” be changed to “virtual events as opposed to in-person gatherings.” That same week U.S. event planners were told that the guidance did not apply to the upcoming functions they were working on: large indoor holiday parties hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan, on the eighth floor of the State Department, involving hundreds of guests, food, and drinks.
A copy of one invitation, obtained by The Washington Post, welcomes guests to a December 15 event titled “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” in the Benjamin Franklin Room, the department’s flagship reception space, which features cut-glass chandeliers and towering Corinthian columns. Invitations have already gone out to 900 people, said two U.S. officials familiar with the planning, raising concerns about a potential super-spreader event.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, told the Post. “An indoor event of this kind is dangerous on so many levels.” Of course, if you ask the State Department, it’s shocked—shocked—anyone would suggest the party is irresponsible in any way whatsoever. As a spokesman explained, “We plan to fully enforce social distancing measures at this reception, and face coverings are mandatory for admittance.” But:
When asked how he could expect attendees to keep masks on at a reception that includes food and drinks, the spokesman did not offer a response. He also did not explain how the department would enforce social distancing, if even a fraction of the 900 guests show up.
Working hard to defend the event, the spokesperson, who naturally spoke on the condition of anonymity so as to not be associated with this reckless shitshow, added: “All proper food and beverage safety precautions will be taken by catering services and staff—all will wear gloves and masks, and any food or beverage will be served individually.” As Lipkin pointed out, though, such measures will do little to protect guests—humans who, and apparently certain levels of the government are unaware of this, eat and drink via the mouth, which will necessarily have to be uncovered to do so. Lipkin also added that alcohol encourages people to stand closer together and that music makes them speak louder, increasing the number of potential viral emissions. “This has all the makings of a repeat of what we saw in the White House Rose Garden following the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett,” he said.
But Pompeo, who clearly hails from Donald Trump’s “let them all get COVID-19” school of thought, isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket re: trying to recreate the magic of the Barrett event:
Two other holiday parties in the coming days have also raised safety concerns at the department given their size. On December 16, Pompeo will host a reception for the Washington diplomatic corps at the State Department. Invites have gone out to about 180 foreign ambassadors, who are allowed to bring spouses, officials said. The invitation could put foreign diplomats in a difficult position as they weigh the benefits of getting face time with the secretary of state and the dangers of being infected…. “It’s unfair, it’s unethical, and it flies in the face of what we need to do to protect each other,” Lipkin said.
Top health officials, including Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, have warned that holiday gatherings may cause a surge in cases this month. “What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “I don’t want to frighten people, except to say it is not too late to do something about this.”
The State Department spokesman said all events will feature “numerous hand-sanitizing towers throughout the spaces,” as well as temperature checks at the entrances. Which might mean something if the virus weren’t contagious in asymptomatic people, which it is, or if temperature checks had been shown to help contain it, which they haven’t. So there’s that.
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