White House scaling back Christmas celebrations due to pandemic

Jonathan Ernst
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The White House is scaling back its holiday parties this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, first lady Jill Biden's office said in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday.

Instead of the dozens of receptions the president and first lady would host in a normal season, there will be a limited number of open-house style events for guests to view the White House holiday decorations in timed increments via self-guided tours. The administration's decision to scale back holiday parties was first reported by The Daily Mail.

“Anyone who knows the Bidens knows how much they enjoy hosting and celebrating the holidays. In the coming days, we will host a limited number of Holiday Open Houses, inviting guests to see the Christmas decorations in person at the White House,” Jill Biden’s spokesperson Michael LaRosa said.

“It is disappointing that we cannot host as many people as the Bidens would like to, but as we have done since Day 1 of the Biden Administration, we will continue to implement strong COVID protocols, developed in consultation with our public health advisors,” he said.

Attendees will have to follow Covid-19 safety measures, LaRosa added.

The holiday season is the second with the pandemic that's killed over 800,000 people across the country.

Last year, then-President Donald Trump hosted as many as 20 indoor holiday parties at the White House. Pictures from the celebrations showed some attendees, including the president, disregarding masking protocols and social distancing recommendations from his own administration.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the Biden administration was taking safety precautions seriously.

"We're going to continue to implement COVID protocols so it doesn't look exactly like it has always looked here, but we are going to continue to celebrate to embrace the holiday season and look for ways we can do that," she said. "Obviously, we're still in the middle of a pandemic. We're still taking precautions.”

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