Op-Ed: Washington’s elite turned the Gridiron dinner into a COVID superspreader. Let’s learn from it.

The number of high-level officials with the virus has some concerned. Pelosi, Garland and Raimondo are the second, seventh and 10th person in the presidential order of succession behind President Joe Biden.

The recent Gridiron Club event in Washington, D.C., was by any objective measure a public health disaster.

A mass gathering occurring during a global pandemic – attended by government leaders, members of the media who’ve regularly reported on the pandemic, and even the Centers of Disease Control Prevention director and the chief medical adviser to the president – resulted in the infection of 70 attendees and counting. (A team of USA TODAY journalists attended the Gridiron.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland are among the high-ranking government leaders who have tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

Dr. Jerome Adams

So far, we’ve heard about attendees who were infected, but what about the staff working the event? It’s hard to believe that more than 70 attendees were infected but that no workers at the event were – workers who almost certainly had less wealth, were less likely to be insured and had much less choice in whether or not to be there in the first place.

Up to 30% of people experience long-COVID symptoms even after a mild case, so despite the talk of most of the diagnosed doing well, statistically speaking not all of them will feel that way in six or 12 months.

We also can’t normalize those with the resources to protect themselves returning to normal at the expense of a service industry that is victimized. Unfortunately, it’s looking like it could repeat with the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 30

As with most things involving COVID-19, analysis of this event has been reduced to politics, finger-pointing and hyperbole. That has distracted us from discussing the potentially lifesaving lessons to be gleaned from a critical scientific and health equity assessment.

Simply put, the American people deserve better from the White House COVID response team, public health officials and the news media. But despite politicians and pundits suggesting otherwise, mass gatherings that lead to mass infections cannot become our “new normal.”

Source: USA Today

Written by Dr. Jerome Adams, a former U.S. surgeon general, is a distinguished professor and executive director of health equity initiatives at Purdue University. Follow him on Twitter: @JeromeAdamsMD

Background from Rolling Stone and the NY Post:

Since then, eight Democratic members of Congress have tested positive, including Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.). (Rolling Stone)

At least three cabinet secretaries, several members of Congress, multiple White House officials and a large number of journalists are among the dozens to test positive.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a gala attendee, also joined the unlucky COVID club on Sunday after attending several in-person events across the city unmasked, and will be quarantining and working remotely from Gracie Mansion this week. 

The high-profile dinner attracted approximately 630 attendees, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications director Jamal Simmons, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and many more. Garland, Simmons and Collins are among those to test positive in recent days. (NY Post)

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