The parties are planned despite warnings from experts against large gatherings.
But while the Post reported that 900 people had been invited – the source warned that, as in previous years, far fewer would attend. This special reception is for the families of American diplomats who are in an “unaccompanied” position, meaning their families are forbidden to live with them. Since not all families are in the DC area, there is a “high flaky rake,” the source said.
Nonetheless, the event typically hosts about 300 people – making social distance almost impossible, even in such a large area, and making COVID-19 more likely to spread, given the eating, drinking and social life associated with a festive party.
The Pompeos are scheduled to host a second reception to invite foreign ambassadors, mission leaders and their spouses, as well as some other high-ranking American officials, to Ben Franklin’s room, where they will receive food and drink. According to the source, roughly 350-400 people are expected to attend.
Cam Henderson, host of the Protocol Chief, will host diplomatic guests at a third event for a “Holiday Open House and Tour” at the invitation of ABC News, followed by a “Holiday Cheer” reception at the Blair House, the President’s Guest House across the street where Heads of State they often stay.
In addition to these three tent events, Pompeo and Henderson are scheduled to host smaller receptions over the next three weeks, the source added.
A State Department spokesman defended the planned receptions in a long statement to ABC News, saying in part, “All participants must wear a mask and social distance policies should be put in place to ensure space between participants.”
Catering services and staff wear gloves and a mask, they added. Temperatures are controlled at the entrances and there are “a number of hand sanitizer towers throughout the area” – although none necessarily prevents the spread of the airborne virus, especially by an asymptomatic person.
“We have taken every precaution to reduce the number of individuals in all areas at once,” the spokesman added, including splitting the Diplomatic Corps party into two parts and a White House tour and Blair House reception in three time zones.