They came, they partied, they got COVID-19.
A couple weekends ago, elite members of the media gathered with lawmakers and Cabinet officials for a debauched night of frivolity called the Gridiron Dinner. The white-tie event features much wine and expensive food, along with comedy routines and songs in which journalists join up with politicians for a weird incestuous dance.
But this year, the maskless event brought COVID-19, too.
By this past Saturday, some 72 people — including members of the Biden administration, the House Speaker and the mayor of New York, among others — have tested positive for the virus.
Gridiron Club President Tom DeFrank on Saturday said that at least 67 attendees of the dinner had tested positive. In addition, five more confirmed cases were announced on Sunday.
“Latest update from Gridiron Club president Tom DeFrank, about covid outbreak from last weekend’s dinner (72 is +5 from yesterday’s reported number),” Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi wrote on Twitter.
Latest update from Gridiron Club president Tom DeFrank, about covid outbreak from last weekend’s dinner (72 is +5 from yesterday’s reported number): pic.twitter.com/tU9J9R0pmw
— Paul Farhi (@farhip) April 10, 2022
One of the latest to announce he has COVID-19 was New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who attended the swanky dinner.
“@NYCMayor is also going to immediately begin taking the anti-viral meds offered for free to NYC residents and encourages all New Yorkers eligible for these meds to take them as well. While he is isolating, he will continue to serve New Yorkers by working remotely,” his press secretary wrote on Twitter.
.@NYCMayor is also going to immediately begin taking the anti-viral meds offered for free to NYC residents and encourages all New Yorkers eligible for these meds to take them as well.
While he is isolating, he will continue to serve New Yorkers by working remotely.
— Fabien Levy (@Fabien_Levy) April 10, 2022
NBC News reported that another cabinet secretary caught COVID-19.
“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has been fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive Friday and is experiencing mild symptoms, his office said in a statement Saturday, adding to a new wave of cases that has swept through the nation’s capital. Two other members of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, tested positive last week after they attended the annual social gathering of high-profile political media and business figures,” the network reported.
Top U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” with host Jonathan Karl. They had this exchange:
KARL: Well, let me ask you about the spike we’ve seen right here in Washington. You and I were both at the Gridiron Dinner. This is a dinner that had about 600 or so attendees. So far I believe we’re at 67 people that have tested positive who were at the dinner. I’m told at least so far no indication of anybody seriously ill. But, you know, about 10 percent of those infected. What is the lesson here? Should we not be holding events like this or to the point we just talked about, is it time to accept that we can have an event like this but there’s going to be a risk, some people will test positive, if everybody is vaccinated, you know, it won’t necessarily be that serious?
FAUCI: I think it gets back to what we were discussing just a moment ago, Jon. It’s going to be a person’s decision about the individual risk they’re going to take. I think the people who run functions, who run big dinners, who run functions like the White House Correspondents’ ball, or thinking back, the Gridiron Dinner, are going to have to make a determination looking at the CDC guidelines and seeing where the trends are. I mean, there are some places you go, not only is it required that you show proof of vaccination, but you have to have a negative test the day you go to a particular place.
FAUCI: And I know a lot of social functions throughout Washington and in New York are doing the same thing, and it’s up to the individual to determine what their level of risk. We don’t want to pooh-pooh getting infected. I think people sometimes say, well, it’s okay to get infected. No, it’s not, because there are things like long COVID and there are sometimes people even though they don’t require hospitalization, Jon, they get significantly ill. They may be at home, they may require a doctor consultation, but they don’t get hospitalized. That’s not something to pooh-pooh.
FAUCI: Again, each individual will have to take their own determination of risk.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.