- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Former President Barack Obama has reportedly canceled plans for a big 60th birthday celebration in Martha’s Vineyard that created a backlash due to concerns around the delta variant of the coronavirus.

He will have a much smaller celebration this weekend instead of the star-studded affair that would have included a performance by Pearl Jam, a visit from Steven Spielberg and more than 600 guests and staff.

“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,” Obama spokeswoman Hannah Hankins told The New York Times. “He’s appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

People around the party suggested the virus outlook was better when the planning began. But the party raised eyebrows as the delta variant ripped through the U.S. — including in Provincetown, Massachusetts, up on Cape Cod.

The Provincetown outbreak forced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advise both unvaccinated and vaccinated persons to wear masks in public indoor settings because of data showing some vaccinated people with “breakthrough” infections had enough virus in them to transmit as easily as an unvaccinated person.

The Obama party enlisted a COVID-19 protocol official to monitor vaccination status and testing ahead of the gathering. But the party sparked cries that high-level Democrats don’t adhere to the type of coronavirus precautions that are expected of the general public.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki referred reporters to Obama officials for details about the party but noted it was planned in an area with “moderate” transmission and wouldn’t be covered by the new CDC mask guidance.

Mr. Obama’s actual birthday is Aug. 4, so well-wishes are pouring in.

“Happy birthday, @BarackObama, I’m proud to call you a brother and a friend — and I’m grateful for your selfless service to this nation,” President Biden tweeted Wednesday.

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

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