The upcoming events, which will offer refreshments and drinks for guests, come as State Department employees have been told not to host holiday gatherings and to maximize teleworking from Thanksgiving until January due to the pandemic, and as staffers continue to receive almost daily emails from the department about Covid-19 outbreaks inside the building, the sources said. Just last week the protocol office, which plans these events, had to undergo deep cleaning due to a potential case.
A State Department spokesperson stressed in a statement to CNN that the events will adhere to strict coronavirus guidelines, with guests being required to wear masks and socially distance.
It is unclear, however, how social distance guidelines could be followed with more than 100 people — and potentially more — in one room.
There will also be temperature checks and guests will be contacted with “health and safety precautions” before the events that ask that they not attend if they think they have the virus or have been exposed in recent days, the spokesperson said.
“We’ve taken every precaution to thin out the number of individuals in all spaces at one time, and plan to keep outdoors space open and available to attendees, weather permitting,” the spokesperson said, though they did not explain why food and beverages would be served if masks are required.
The planned events are leaving State Department career officials enraged, as they have concerns about the parties contributing to the spread of the deadly virus. Career and contracted staff feel like they cannot say no to working the events, explained one of the officials. There is concern about the potentially dangerous position into which this forces people.
“What makes Secretary Pompeo and his Chief of Protocol, Cam Henderson, think they are above the rules and have the virus under control to throw numerous parties when there is literally a pandemic raging inside the building that they can’t fix,” the second State Department official said.
“It is simply irresponsible,” the first official said, noting that some of the contractors who work in the kitchen may not have health insurance.
The upcoming parties will continue a pattern of the Trump administration flouting public health recommendations as the pandemic continues to grip the US. Already the White House itself has been the epicenter of at least three Covid-19 outbreaks among staff and Trump allies, something that isn’t preventing events from taking place there while cases surge.
CNN’s Devan Cole, Kate Bennett, Kristen Holmes and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.