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Covid cases surge on Martha’s Vineyard, but officials say it’s ‘too early’ to blame Obama’s birthday celebration

Since Obama’s August 7 party, there have been 58 new Covid-19 cases reported in Duke’s County, Massachusetts, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Through much of June and July, the island had zero infections reported on many days, and there were a combined 27 cases in the two weeks leading up to the party at Obama’s $12 million oceanfront vacation mansion.

The ex-president was criticized for hosting such an event, celebrating his 60th birthday, amid rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, even as Democrat politicians and health officials cautioned against crowded gatherings. Obama responded to the backlash by scaling back the festivities from an original plan for 475 guests, but footage from the celebrity-filled bash showing maskless revelers spurred fresh outrage.

As many as 400 people reportedly showed up, including such celebrities as Beyonce, Jay Z, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissy Teigen. Many traveled in by private jet and stayed at local hotels.

Local health official Janet Hathaway told the Boston Herald that it’s “too early to tell” if there’s any connection between Obama’s party and the surge in Covid-19 cases. She said there was an uptick in cases in the first week of August. In fact, there were 23 infections reported from August 1-7.

Martha’s Vineyard, located between Boston and New York, is a playground for the rich and famous, where a weekend hotel stay can cost upward of $5,000. Businesses must make the lion’s share of their revenue during summer months, when the population surges to nearly 200,000 from 17,000, but many have reportedly been forced to close amid the recent Covid-19 outbreak.

At least eight restaurants were closed all or part of the past week because of Covid-19 cases among employees, and two will remain shuttered through next week, the local Vineyard Gazette newspaper reported. Test MV, the island’s free testing site, is moving to a larger facility to accommodate a jump in people seeking Covid-19 tests.

The Obama festivities reportedly weren’t limited to last Saturday’s party. He gathered with friends for dinner at a local restaurant two days earlier and for brunch on Sunday.

This week’s Covid-19 case total was the highest in Dukes County since April. Maura Valley, a health agent in Tinsbury, acknowledged that contact tracing hasn’t been completed to determine whether there’s a link to the party.

Nevertheless, critics were quick to blame Obama for the island’s Covid-19 spike, calling him a “super-spreader” and referring to a new strain of the virus called the “Obama variant.” Others said sarcastically that the infections were harmless because the Obama gathering was “sophisticated,” alluding to a New York Times reporter saying in a CNN interview that the partygoers would be a “sophisticated, vaccinated crowd.”

Obama defenders argued that the people who attended his party were encouraged to be vaccinated – although even this does not guarantee certain protection against the fast-spreading Covid-19 Delta variant, with the infamous report from the recent outbreak in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, showing three-fourths of those affected had been inoculated.

Others went as far as blaming racism for the deluge of criticism.

“I haven’t seen this much racist outrage over Obama since that time he dared to get paid for a speaking engagement,” one Twitter user said. “So at this point, he’s not allowed to earn money, sell books or have birthday parties. Got it.”

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