- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2021

Former President Barack Obama is reportedly planning a 60th birthday bash at his Martha’s Vineyard home that will include a Pearl Jam performance and more than 600 guests and staff even as health officials sound the alarm over the fast-moving delta variant of the coronavirus.

Axios reports that film director Steven Spielberg is set to attend the bash this coming weekend, which is the talk of the town and comes one month after massive July 4 celebrations in Provincetown, Massachusetts, led to a number of breakthrough infections and concerns about the extent to which some fully vaccinated persons can transmit the delta variant to others.

Those concerns prompted federal officials to recommend that both unvaccinated and vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor spaces within counties with “substantial” or “high” transmission.

Martha’s Vineyard’s transmission does not reach the level of transmission covered by the guidance, and organizers said there will be a COVID-19 coordinator to monitor protocols.

The party will be outside, guests are expected to be vaccinated and there will be a testing requirement, although it is unclear if they will be expected to wear masks, according to Axios.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to criticize the former president and pointed to the outdoor venue and “moderate” spread of the virus in the party’s region. She referred questions about virus protocols to Mr. Obama’s team.

But the gathering of glitzy guests at a former president’s $12 million home will raise eyebrows, given virus fears and official calls for prudence.

The director of the National Institutes of Health appeared to warn against big gatherings during a round of Sunday talk show interviews.

“If you’re talking about a small party like I might have at my house for six or eight people who are all fully vaccinated, I do not believe — at this point — we need to put masks on to be next to each other,” Dr. Francis Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But if there were 100 people — and, of course, how are you really going to be sure about people’s vaccination status? And maybe there’s some immunocompromised people there who, though they’re vaccinated, are not actually fully protected, then the dynamic changes a little bit. There will be some need for common sense there.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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