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Elite White House Correspondents Dinner emerging as COVID-19 'superspreader'

May 6, 2022 7:41am

Updated: May 6, 2022 7:41am

Attendees of the ritzy White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday have begun testing positive for COVID-19, fulfilling host Trevor Noah’s prophecy that they were attending “the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event.”

One notable was ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Carl, who Politico reported tested positive days after sitting next to Kim Kardashian. He also shook hands with President Joe Biden and spoke at the microphone while receiving an award.

“He tested positive for COVID Monday night, but tested negative on Saturday afternoon before the White House Correspondents Dinner by medically-supervised staff,” a person familiar with the matter told Politico.

“He had no symptoms on Saturday. Jon is currently isolating and participating in contract tracing.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also tested positive on Wednesday afternoon after attending, according to the White House.

CNN reported Tuesday that multiple reporters and staff from CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Politico and other participating news organizations had tested positive.

“Anecdotally speaking, much of Tuesday afternoon seemed to consist of attendees trading text messages and emails about colleagues and friends and people they had seen who had tested positive,” CNN’s Brian Seltzer wrote in his email newsletter.

This is the second elite D.C. event related to journalism that has become a COVID-19 “superspreader.” The Gridiron Club dinner on Apr. 2 resulted in 85 of 630 attendees testing positive.

The White House Correspondents Association required anyone attending the main event Saturday night to submit a negative COVID test, while the Gridiron Club only required proof of vaccination.

However, the WHCD is generally a whole weekend of parties that kicks off Thursday night – many of which has less stringent COVID protocols.

CBS’s Steven Portnoy, president of the WHCA, said Wednesday that the “the number of cases that have been brought to my attention now totals less than 1 percent of dinner attendees.”

There were an estimated 2,600 journalists, celebrities and political figures at the WHCD on Saturday. Attendees described the crowded ballroom as “like a horror film” and “a cruise ship vibe.”

“No exits. Literally getting trapped between tables,” tweeted Jada Yuan, a reporter for the Washington Post who tested positive after attending.

“Fear of breathing near people but people are everywhere. Creeping sense that you’re the only one who know this is insane.”

The irony is that the main event’s headliner, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, had mock-lectured the packed house on the COVID risks of attending.

“For real, what are we doing here? Did none of you learn anything from the Gridiron dinner? Nothing?' he said. Do you read any of your own newspapers?” Noah asked.

“You guys spent the last two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large in-door gatherings, then the second someone offers you a free dinner, you all turn into Joe Rogan.”  

“I mean Dr. Fauci dropped out, that should have been a pretty big sign,' Noah continued, referring to how the White House’s chief medical advisor decided against attending due to risk of exposure.

“Fauci thought it was too dangerous to come tonight. Pete Davidson thinks it's OK.”

“And we all went with Pete.”