The New York Times reported that the party, honoring the first Black president’s 60th birthday, which was set to take place Saturday, Aug. 7 at Martha’s Vineyard, has now been canceled.
A statement provided to the publication from the former president’s spokeswoman Hannah Hankins read, “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.” However, she continued, “He’s appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”
As previously reported, Obama had been planning the massive celebration for months and was expected to entertain hundreds of his close friends, including administration officials, celebrities and Democratic donors, many of whom arrived ahead of the festivities and rented houses on the island.
The former top adviser to the 44th president told the media that at the time of planning, the nation was at a different place as far as the pandemic. However, Obama already had planned to enforce guidelines suggested by the CDC, which included requiring that all attendees be fully vaccinated and provide proof of COVID-19 testing. However, over the last several weeks as cases of the latest Delta variant continued to increase, they responded “to the changing circumstances.”
Now the couple plans on only hosting close friends and family, presumably those who arrived prior to the latest update, as expressed by Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff. Emanuel told the outlet that he intended to go but said he received a call Tuesday night advising him that he should not come if he were not already on the island.
The politician faced backlash from a number of public figures, including Senator John Kennedy who appeared on Fox News where he condemned Obama for having the party calling it the “single biggest thing that has undermined our efforts to make the American people understand we are in a fourth wave … I have never seen something so irresponsible.”
He stated the Obama “knows better” and recommended “a beer and a personal pan pizza” with first lady Michelle Obama instead.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday the delta variant of the coronavirus accounts for roughly 93 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in the country, The Hill reported.