WASHINGTON – The red and gold party invitations make no mention of the coronavirus, nor do they recognize the holiday message public health officials have tried to convey to Americans: stay home.
Instead, the invitations are the latest example of how President Trump spends his final weeks in power in an alternate universe, denying the realities of life during the pandemic.
“The President and Mrs. Trump are asking for the pleasure of your business at a holiday reception to be held at the White House,” reads the cursive text, displayed under a presidential seal.
Invitations to at least 20 White House parties, the first Monday at 7 p.m., have been sent so far, administration officials said. Guest lists include current and former officials and allies, some from out of state; Officials of the Republican National Committee; campaign staff; and a few Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White Coronavirus Task Force, is also hosting at least one ‘Christmas celebration’ at the Naval Observatory, according to a copy of the invitation, which states a dress code of “cocktail dress” as well as all guests over the age of 2 and all staff working at the event and serving food wear masks.
Social distancing will also be enforced, and guests will have their temperature checked upon arrival at Mr Pence’s residence, as per the invitation.
In more than half a dozen interviews on Tuesday, many guests said they did not plan to attend the White House rallies due to the personal risk required. Others joked that since so many in the president’s orbit had already tested positive for the virus, the White House had achieved herd immunity and was now a safe space for a shutdown. quick to see the Christmas decorations.
The holiday season, canceled across much of Washington, will be a rare time when the White House feels busy.
Inside the West Wing over the past few weeks there has been significantly less foot traffic inside and outside the Oval Office as staff members reflecting on their career development give a little space for the president who refuses to concede the loss of the election. Mr. Trump himself has made few public appearances since the election was called for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
As Mr. Trump retreated from public view, Mr. Biden attempted to put himself in a vacuum. Last week, for example, he gave a crude but upbeat Thanksgiving speech in which he begged Americans to stay home for the holidays, telling them it was a patriotic duty to take the necessary precautions.
But the White House holiday season – with a gingerbread house made with 25 pounds of chocolate and 25 pounds of royal icing by the in-house pastry team – is one area where the president breaking the standards seems determined. to savor the tradition, even if that means flouting the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the holiday events is a party Mr. Trump is hosting on the afternoon of December 11 for West Wing staff members and their families. There are also receptions scheduled for the evenings of December 14 and 16, depending on the guests and copies of the invitations.
While the invitations did not mention any coronavirus safety precautions, Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump, the first lady, said the White House was taking steps to ensure the safety of attendees. Guests would be strongly encouraged to wear masks when not eating and guest lists were smaller than usual, Ms Grisham said. She did not say how many people were invited to each event.
Other restrictions were put in place that were not instituted when the president hosted a large crowd for a White House indoor party on election night, she added.
“Customers will be able to enjoy dishes prepared individually by chefs at catering stations protected by plexiglass,” Ms Grisham said in a statement. “All past drinks will be covered. All service personnel will wear masks and gloves to comply with food safety guidelines. Attending the parties will be a very personal choice. It‘s a long-standing tradition that people visit and enjoy the joy and iconic decor of the annual Christmas celebrations at the White House. “
The latest directives from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, a Democrat, limit gatherings inside the city to 10 people. As of December 14, Washington restaurants are allowed to operate indoors at only 25 percent of capacity.
The White House is exempt from city restrictions as it sits on federal property.