May 17, 2022

Former President Barack Obama, who turns 60 on Wednesday, will be celebrating only with family and close friends. He has significantly scaled back his planned 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard this weekend because of fears about the highly transmissible Delta strain of COVID-19, according to his spokesperson.

The former President’s birthday party was initially set to be held outside and to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public health regulations, including guest testing and the presence of a COVID-19 safety coordinator, a source told CNN earlier this week.

The event was scheduled to attract over 400 visitors, including celebrities and former Obama administration officials, as well as approximately 200 hired personnel.

“This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with COVID-19 safeguards in place,” Hannah Hankins, a spokeswoman for Obama, said in a statement Wednesday provided to CNN. “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.”

Hankins continued that “President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

The New York Times, which broke the news of Obama’s massive guest list for Wednesday’s party, stated that several visitors were already on their way to Massachusetts island.

The CDC has identified Martha’s Vineyard, in Dukes County, as a “moderate” COVID-19 community spread area, and Massachusetts has a high immunization rate. Late this month, the Martha’s Vineyard Boards of health issued an indoor mask warning in compliance with new CDC guidance.

Obama appeared to be pressing ahead with his plans to invite visitors at his 29-acre island retreat, despite objections from some conservatives.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary who formerly worked in President Barack Obama’s administration, defended the former President’s party on Monday, arguing at a press conference that his crew followed various safety standards.

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters Tuesday that such an event is “not a good idea” and that if he had been asked to Obama’s birthday party, he would have declined.