Virus cases spike after White House correspondents dinner

Virus cases spike after White House correspondents dinner

WASHINGTON — On Saturday, comedian Trevor Noah stood before a ballroom of 2,600 reporters, celebrities and politicians at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and asked: What are we doing here?

“Haven’t any of you learned anything from the Gridiron Dinner?” Nothing,” Mr. Noah said, referring to another elite rally in Washington in April, after which dozens of participants have tested positive for the coronavirus. “Do you read any of your own newspapers?”

On Wednesday, Mr Noah’s chastising remarks at what he called “the nation’s most distinguished broadcast event” began to sound prophetic as a growing number of attendees, including a series of journalists and Antony J Blinken, the secretary of state, said they had tested positive for the virus.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday that President Biden tested negative on Tuesday after attending the unmasked dinner. Ms Psaki added that Mr Blinken was not considered a close contact with Mr Biden and “has not seen the president for several days”.

The rising number of cases presented another sign of an official Washington that has largely returned to pre-pandemic routines, even as officials still urge Americans to take precautions, and decided to live with the outcome.

Journalists from several major news outlets said they tested positive. Among these were Jonathan KarlABC News’ chief Washington correspondent, who shook hands with Mr. Biden over dinner, and Steve Hermannchief national correspondent for Voice of America. CNN reported that those infected also included staff from his network, as well as NBC News, CBS News and Politico.

It’s unclear exactly how many cases were confirmed Wednesday evening. Steven Portnoy of CBS News, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said Wednesday night that “the number of cases that have come to my attention now totals less than 1% of dinner attendees.” He added that “many” social gatherings in Washington over the weekend had more lenient Covid protocols than the association dinner.

Dinner required proof of vaccination and a negative test on the day, and recalls were strongly encouraged. Some of those reporting infections also said they attended other gatherings over the weekend.

Dinner attendees expressed resignation as the number of confirmed cases rose on Wednesday.

“I am yet another victim of the #WHCA weekend,” Julia Ioffe, founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck News, announced on Twitter Wednesday. “I knew I was taking a risk and, well, here we are!”

Mark Leibovich, a reporter for The Atlantic who attended the dinner and spoke briefly with Mr Blinken at a rally the day before, said some guests were expected to test positive. He noted that he tested negative for the virus on Wednesday evening.

“There was a kind of cruise ship vibe” to the dinner, said Leibovich, who was formerly a New York Times reporter. He added that once guests were inside the ballroom, “there was no escaping” the crowds.

Jada Yuan, Washington Post reporter who tested positive on Wednesday after attending the dinner, said at the time that the ballroom was “like a horror movie”.

“No outings. Being literally trapped between the tables,” Ms. Yuan wrote on Twitter. “Afraid to breathe near people but people are everywhere. Creeping feeling that you’re the only one who knows it’s crazy.

Many attendees of the event, known as the Nerd Ball, had made numerous risk-benefit calculations, wondering if the possibility of contracting the coronavirus was worth attending the dinner and its parties before and after. after lavish.

The post office reported that some White House officials feared security measures for the dinner were insufficient and that the White House Correspondents’ Association rejected an offer for a company to install – at no cost – devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus, said he would not attend the dinner, citing his “individual assessment of my personal risk”. Dr Fauci was then photographed attending a small outdoor pre-party before dinner on Saturday.