White House plans holiday party as Americans urged to stay home

WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The White House plans to hold an indoor holiday reception next week just days after Thanksgiving despite ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at the compound, and against the advice of its own advisers who are urging Americans to sacrifice their normal holiday gatherings to curb the spread of the virus.

First lady Melania Trump is hosting a Nov. 30 “holiday reception” at the White House, according to an invitation obtained by ABC News. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

U.S. officials have warned against large Thanksgiving gatherings on Thursday, instead urging Americans to stay home and forgo traveling to see relatives in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect vulnerable individuals as cases topped 12 million over the weekend.

While the White House has said President Donald Trump and Melania planned to remain in Washington for the holiday this week, skipping their annual Thanksgiving at Trump’s private club in Florida, the holiday party comes just three days later.

It also follows a series of White House events in recent months that have been linked to a rash of outbreaks, including Trump’s own bout with the disease from late September into early October. A White House aide and four others have tested positive in recent days.

“We want everyone to understand that these holiday parties can be super spreader events,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told ABC News in an interview on Monday, urging celebrations to be held outdoors with as few people as possible and pointing to recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone,” Adams said.

Still, it appeared as if many Americans were not heeding the advice. While the number of U.S. air travelers was still down about 60% compared to a year ago, federal transportation officials on Monday reported screening the highest number of passengers since March.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Andrea Shalal and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Bernadette Baum