News Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked by a Democratic Senator to call off scheduled holiday parties—including one with a 900-person invite list for an indoor gathering—left critics wondering: Wait, an indoor holiday party with 900 people during a raging pandemic?
After it was reported earlier this week by the Washington Post that such plans were underway, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote to Pompeo to ask that he reconsider.
"I am concerned that these parties pose a significant health risk, not only to attendees, but to the employees and workers who must staff these events, as well as to State Department employees who may feel pressured to attend," Menendez wrote Thursday in a letter addressed to Pompeo.
According to the Post on Friday, Pompeo has made no moves to cancel the parties. The newspaper reports:
Pompeo is hosting several parties in the next two weeks even as the Trump administration's own health experts are imploring Americans to limit travel and avoid large gatherings amid a pandemic that has killed more than 274,000 people and infected 14 million across the United States.
A State Department spokesman said "we plan to fully enforce social distancing measures at this reception, and face coverings are mandatory for admittance."
The revelations, however, stirred deep concern. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called the plans "shameful" in a tweet Thursday night:
This behavior from @SecPompeo, who is supposed to represent our values abroad, is shameful and a dishonor to the foreign service officers who serve under him. America should be setting a global example on combating this virus, not fueling it. https://t.co/LiiaYYzkxD— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) December 4, 2020
As writer Jeff Pearlman put it, "It's so insane, it just makes sense."
In recent days, the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S. has soared to new heights, with hospitalization rates setting records and health systems in states large and small on the verge of being overwhelmed. But even as places like California institute new lockdown measures in an effort to get the outbreak under control, Trump has stayed largely silent on the ballooning infections while top aides and GOP allies have continued to betray—and even ridicule or show outright hostility towards—the warnings of public health experts calling for stricter measures.
Meanwhile, new research this week from The COVID States Project found widespread compliance with social distancing guidelines—like deciding to attend an indoor party with 900 other people—fell to a low for the year in October, just before the latest surge in the virus. According to The Hill, "Forty-five percent of Americans surveyed in October said that they had been in a room of people not in their households in the past 24 hours, up from 26 percent in April. Reports of spending time in a group of 11 to 100 people also more than doubled."