Aug 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Obama scales back 60th birthday party amid Delta variant concerns

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk to greet wellwishers at Cape Cod Air Force Station in Massachusetts on August 6, 2016 a

Former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet wellwishers at Cape Cod Air Force Station in Massachusetts on Aug. 6, 2016. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama this week "significantly" scaled back his huge 60th birthday bash scheduled for this weekend amid heightened concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant, the New York Times reports.

Catch up fast: Hundreds of guests had been invited to the party, including friends, family, former aides and celebrities, including Steven Spielberg, Axios' Sarah Mucha first reported.

The big picture: The change of plans comes as concerns over the the highly contagious Delta variant grow, and days after data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that vaccinated people may transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are unvaccinated.

  • Scaling back the party also comes after Obama had "at first appeared eager to carry on with his plans, displaying what some viewed as a casual disregard for the optics of his birthday bash," per the Times.

What they're saying: "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," Hannah Hankins, a spokesperson for the former president, told the Times on Wednesday morning.

Between the lines: Guests were asked to be vaccinated and were required to submit their negative COVID-19 test results to a COVID-coordinator before the event.

  • "They’ve been concerned about the virus from the beginning, asking invited guests if they had been vaccinated, requesting that they get a test proximate to the event," David Axelrod, a former top Obama adviser, told the NYT.
  • "But when this was planned, the situation was quite different. So they responded to the changing circumstances."

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