Obama Considerably Scales Again 60th Birthday Celebration as Virus Instances Rebound

WASHINGTON – The party plans had been in the works for months, and many invitees had already arrived on Martha’s Vineyard when former President Barack Obama belatedly announced that he would cancel his huge 60th birthday party planned for Saturday.

“Due to the recent spread of the Delta variant last week, the President and Ms. Obama decided to significantly reduce the event to include only family and close friends,” said Hannah Hankins, a spokeswoman for the former president, in a statement Wednesday morning . “He is grateful that others are sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

Hundreds of former Obama administration officials, celebrities and Democratic donors planned to attend the party at Obama’s island mansion. Many guests were already en route and others were planning the necessary coronavirus tests, the results of which they had to present to a medical “coronavirus coordinator” in order to gain entry to the Obama premises. The New York Post reported that George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey were all expected.

“They were concerned about the virus from the start, asked invited guests if they had been vaccinated, and requested a test near the event,” said David Axelrod, a former top Obama adviser. “But when that was planned, the situation was very different. This is how they reacted to the changing circumstances. “

Mr Obama’s belated change of plan came days after President Biden effectively admitted the pandemic had returned, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an internal document that the Delta variant was much more contagious and included the vaccine more likely to breach protection than any other known version of the virus.

However, Mr. Obama initially seemed keen to continue his plans, showing what some viewed as a casual disregard for the look of his birthday party. Even as cities like Washington re-imposed mask requirements indoors, a source who helped plan Obama’s birthday party said the event would go ahead as planned, underscoring that it would be outdoors and all guests the CDC minutes for public health.

Many of Mr. Obama’s former aides also defended his decision to move on.

“Folks … buy a card,” Tommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesman, wrote on Twitter in response to a news article about the party’s response to growing coronavirus concern following an outbreak in the vaccinated community of Provincetown, Massachusetts. “Martha’s Vineyard is an island. It’s not near Provincetown. “

Some supporters on the island also quickly jumped in his defense. “I’m thrilled to have his birthday out here,” said Caroline Hunter, an Oak Bluffs activist and resident. “I think we should be a lot more concerned about unvaccinated people.”

But other invitees had already decided that it was best not to attend. Ronald A. Klain, the White House chief of staff, for example, had changed his mind and decided not to attend.

Alan Dershowitz, a notorious Martha’s Vineyard resident who served on former President Donald J. Trump’s defense team in his first impeachment trial, said the Chilmark community was critical of the glitzy bash and said it was wise of Obama to cancel it or not rather than creating a distraction for Mr. Biden.

“Everyone is talking about it and nobody is talking positively,” Dershowitz said in an interview on Tuesday. “Some people find excuses for it. Nobody says it’s a good idea. “

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