WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama is scaling back his 60th birthday party on Saturday because of a surge in coronavirus cases.
The event at Martha's Vineyard was months in the making and had taken into account all public health guidelines, the former president's spokesperson, Hannah Hankins, said.
“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,” Hankins said in a statement. "President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”
The change of plans announced Wednesday, Obama’s actual birthday, comes as Biden administration officials have warned the public about the delta variant becoming the dominant Covid strain in the U.S.
Hundreds of people were expected to attend the party, including former Obama administration officials, Democratic donors and some celebrities. George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg were reportedly to be among the 475 guests.
Several Republicans criticized Obama for holding the event, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who tweeted over the weekend that if former President Donald Trump had scheduled such a celebration, Democrats would have excoriated him.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its mask guidelines again last week amid a surge in delta variant cases, recommending that people in places with high transmission rates wear masks indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. That change came after a study that focused on a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod.
A former presidential spokesman for Obama, Tommy Vietor, suggested in a tweet that the outdoor event wasn’t a big deal, especially given that Martha’s Vineyard is an island about 100 miles from Provincetown.
It remains unclear how many people the Obamas plan to host and who has been invited.