A Massachusetts Republican party leader who contracted COVID-19 and spread it to his family has reportedly traced back the infections to a largely maskless holiday party held at the White House on December 9.
Tom Mountain, the vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, was hospitalized with the virus only a few days after being one of around 200 people to attend a Hanukkah party at the White House, according to multiple local media reports.
“Well, lets put it this way, when I went down to Washington, D.C. for the White House Hanukkah event, I was perfectly fine, and three days later after that event, I was in the hospital at Brigham and Women’s ready to be put on a lifesaving ventilator,” Mountain told WHDH on Monday.
Some party attendees wore masks while entering the White House, but Mountain said that they “would just leisurely and gingerly take off their mask to mingle, to schmooze” once inside, adding that he “was guilty as anyone else.”
Following the advice of public health experts by wearing face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a contentious, and sometimes partisan, issue during 2020. YK TANG/Getty
Mountain was hospitalized for a second time about one week later. He said he narrowly avoided being put on a ventilator both times but has continued to experience symptoms despite no longer requiring hospitalization. In addition, his wife, son, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law have also tested positive following his diagnosis.
“I didn’t listen to the warnings of my own family, and now I’m paying the price,” he told The Boston Globe on Saturday. “No one can ever say for sure exactly where they got it, but I’ll say this: Before the party, I was in perfectly good health.”
“I have to admit I wasn’t the most careful about wearing the face masks,” added Mountain, “but now I’m zealous about it. I have no doubt about their necessity.”
The largely mask-free party Mountain attended was the first of two Hanukkah events held at the White House on the same night, at a time when COVID-19 was surging out of control. Deaths caused by the virus surpassed 3,000 on December 9, breaking the record for a second consecutive day.
The White House has been the scene of multiple outbreaks of the virus, with dozens of infections among staff and prominent Trump administration officials. President Donald Trump, who has rarely worn a mask himself, contracted the virus along with first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump in early October.
COVID-19 hit single-day highs of 3,682 new deaths on December 16, and just under 250,000 new cases on December 18, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of Monday, there had been over 19.1 million total confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and more than 333,000 associated deaths.
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.