Is Obama not worried about his birthday party becoming a super spreader event?
Published: Aug 03, 2021 10:23 PM
President Barack Obama wipes his tears as he speaks at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday, giving his presidential farewell address. Photo: AP

President Barack Obama wipes his tears as he speaks at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday, giving his presidential farewell address. Photo: AP

As fresh global concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant mount, former US president Barack Obama will reportedly host about 700 guests for his 60th birthday party this weekend at Martha's Vineyard, where he has a home.  

Holding large gatherings even while in the grip of the pandemic seems to be embedded in the DNA of Americans. On July 4, US President Joe Biden welcomed around 1,000 people to the White House to mark the country's Independence Day and to tout his administration's "achievements" in fighting the pandemic. 

Just last Friday, the US registered over 100,000 daily COVID-19 cases, the highest since early February this year. The death toll has also surged. After the US CDC urged vaccinated people in certain areas of the US to resume wearing masks indoors in public areas, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was accused of violating her own mask mandate while attending a wedding reception. 

It is reported that guests going to Obama's bash will have to be tested and are asked to be fully vaccinated. But obviously, this does not give a 100 percent guarantee that the virus will not spread. A small proportion of fully vaccinated individuals do become infected. Such rare occurrences are known as "breakthrough cases", and is to be expected. It is generally agreed among experts that vaccinated people should also wear masks and respect social distancing to minimize the risks. 

Therefore, the highly infectious Delta variant brings the question of whether Obama's upcoming party will become a super spreader event that overshadows the US' already wretched fight against the pandemic.

Wei Zongyou, a professor at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the recent large gatherings show US politicians' double standards.

"When Trump was in power, the Democrats and Obama criticized him for holding campaign rallies and not wearing masks despite the pandemic. Now the pandemic in the US is far from over and requires strict scientific anti-pandemic measures, but the White House and Obama turn a blind eye to the situation - they are obviously playing double standards," said Wei. 

It is this neglect for life and human rights that has led to American politicians holding public gatherings despite severe conditions. Their attitude is telling. For Obama, hosting a birthday party is aimed at showing off his former glory as president and a manifestation of the idea that Americans are "free" to do whatever they want. Obama once blasted Trump's handling of the pandemic, but he himself is not setting a better example by following the rules. 

For the current administration, holding large gatherings caters to voters who want to resume normal lives on the one hand, but also aims to garner support for the 2022 mid-term elections on the other. Such calculations on individual freedoms and political interests are throwing the interests of Americans and the reputation of the US into the mud.

In addition to the tired and weak government response to the pandemic, partisan struggles are further weakening government efforts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, a "moron" after the latter said the Capitol Physician's mask mandate was a decision not based on science but "conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state."

With this political farce being staged again and again, the US, once a "shining city on the hill," has become more divided as a result of the pandemic.