Former U.S. President Barack Obama is sharply scaling back his planned 60th birthday party this weekend at his oceanfront retreat in Massachusetts, as the nation confronts a surging number of coronavirus infections.
Obama, a two-term president who left office in 2017, and former first lady Michelle Obama had invited 475 people to their vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, but now have curtailed the guest list to family and close friends.
He turned 60 on Wednesday, ahead of the long-planned event at the seven-bedroom home the couple bought for $11.75 million in 2019 from the owner of the Boston Celtics professional basketball team.
The original guest list, according to news accounts, was expected to include numerous former aides to the country’s 44th president, key Democratic leaders, as well as such entertainment stars as George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey. It was not immediately known who remains on the guest list.
The party had triggered complaints from Republicans that Obama was ignoring the surging number of virus cases in the U.S., even as President Joe Biden criticized Republican governors for not agreeing to face mask and vaccination mandates in their states.
Obama spokeswoman Hannah Hankins said Wednesday, “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. He’s appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”
Party planners had said the gathering would have followed all local, state and federal health protocols, including COVID-19 testing at the site. The party was first planned when the number of new coronavirus cases had fallen sharply in the U.S., before the recent surge that has spread rapidly among the unvaccinated.
Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, had not been expected to attend the gathering.
Some material in this report came from Reuters.