Hundreds of invitees chose to skip Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Christmas party. Pompeo invited more than 900 people, flouting CDC guidance on limiting personal gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer than 70 showed up after public health officials and politicians warned the potential “superspreader” event would worsen an already precarious situation.
According to two officials familiar with the event who spoke to The Washington Post, canceled a speech he was slated to give and found a substitute speaker.
“The State Department did not respond to questions about why Pompeo canceled the speech and whether it was due to his own health concerns about holding a large indoor event,” the Post reported, noting that the statements from the two officials and photographs of the event showed it “featured drinks, boxed meals and a masked Santa who walked around from table to table to chitchat with adults and children.”
Pompeo had chosen to hold the event despite gatherings in Washington, D.C. being limited to no more than 10 people and even after Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who earlier this month called on him to cancel it and others the State Department had on its schedule.
“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.
Earlier this morning, the State Department announced Pompeo had chosen to quarantine himself after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19.
“Secretary Pompeo has been identified as having come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID,” the department said. “The Secretary has been tested and is negative. In accordance with CDC guidelines, he will be in quarantine. He is being closely monitored by the Department’s medical team.”