Positive Covid tests soar on Martha’s Vineyard following Obama’s birthday blowout

Nearly 75 people on Martha’s Vineyard have tested positive for COVID-19 following former President Barack Obama’s controversial 60th birthday bash a week ago, the highest number of people infected in the region since April.

The Daily Mail, which has been tracking the story, has been documenting an increase in COVID infections since the event, with a guest list of originally about 500 that Obama was said to have scaled down.

As of this writing, the outlet reports that 74 people on Martha’s Vineyard have tested positive for the virus, the most since spring.

All told, however, local health officials say it’s too early to tell if the hundreds of guests and staff who attended the blowout, most of them maskless according to video and photos posted online, have caused the dramatic rise in coronavirus cases.

“At this time we’re not aware of any cases connected to the Obama party,” Maura Valley, a Tisbury health agent and boards of health spokesperson, told the Daily Mail. “It’s a little too early and the only way we’re going to know is through comprehensive contact tracing.”

It’s not clear, though, if she offered an alternative explanation for the sudden rise in cases.

Ahead of last Saturday’s party, hundreds of guests flew in from all over the country, including climate envoy John Kerry, and gathered in massive tents erected for the occasion at the Obamas’ $12 million seashore estate in Edgartown.

Video clips posted to social media from some of the guests showed the former president dancing and partying without wearing a mask and without engaging in social distancing at a time when the Biden administration’s leading health officials were warning even vaccinated Americans to don masks and avoid large social gatherings again as the delta variant of COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in regions of the country.

Obama met with friends on Thursday ahead of his party at the Barn Bowl & Bistro, then again on Friday at the high-end Winnetu Oceanside Resort to kick off the festivities.

After his party, Obama attended a brunch on Sunday at Beach Road restaurant, where he and friends met and dined under a marquee near the water in Vineyard Haven that had been put up especially for him.

The Daily Mail noted that COVID cases had already begun to surge ahead of Obama’s event; 48 new cases had been reported by area health authorities the week leading up to the parties. As such — and after facing widespread criticism in the press and on social media platforms — Obama announced he would be scaling back the event to account for the spread of the virus.

But in reality, an estimated 300-400 guests attended the party anyway, which led to renewed criticism and accusations of elitist hypocrisy.

Also, the Daily Mail notes, many of those guests stayed in Edgartown, “the center of the island’s COVID resurgence.”

A number of notable guests including actor Bradley Cooper stayed at the Harbor View Hotel; six staffers there have since tested positive for the virus, though again, local health officials have not attributed the spread to Obama’s event.

Nevertheless, in the week since, health authorities in the area have reimposed mask mandates at bars and eateries; two restaurants shut down temporarily as cases surged.

Obama claimed he was being careful and following COVID guidance, even hiring a so-called “coronavirus coordinator” for the party. “Attendees were required to take tests and submit their results to gain entry to the compound,” the Daily Mail reported.

Jon Dougherty

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