Comedian Trevor Noah joked the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held April 30, was the nation’s “most distinguished super-spreader event.”
Now we know that Noah’s quip was more reality than joke.
What are the details?
Numerous journalists who attended the event — including staffers from NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, Politico, and others — have tested positive for COVID-19 since the dinner, according to CNN.
One of those fallen ill is ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who directly interacted with President Joe Biden, Politico reported.
More than 2,500 journalists, politicians, and Hollywood celebrities crammed into what the Washington Post called the “poorly ventilated basement of the Washington Hilton.” Attendees were not required to wear face masks. Instead, each person was required to provide a negative COVID test on the day of the dinner. Organizers also required that every attendee be vaccinated against COVID.
White House Correspondents Association President Steven Portnoy told CNN:
We worked hard to publicize our protocols and encouraged those eligible to get booster shots in the weeks leading up to the dinner. Our event implemented protocols that went beyond any guidance or regulation issued by the CDC or the DC health department. We wish anyone who may not be feeling well a speedy recovery.
The exact number of attendees who have tested positive for COVID is not known.
Dr. Anthony Fauci had been scheduled to attend the event, but withdrew last week over apparent COVID fears. However, Fauci attended a pre-dinner brunch event.
Just weeks before the WHCD, Washington battled another COVID outbreak after an event at the Gridiron Club. Multiple lawmakers and members of Biden’s Cabinet, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, contracted COVID after attending the event.
Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams later condemned the outbreak as 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,” Adams wrote in an essay.
But as CNN noted, it will be difficult to pin down the source of the WHCD outbreak because the main event is “bookended by dozens of parties held by news orgs and talent agencies.”
Still, questions loom considering every attendee was tested and vaccinated.