WASHINGTON — As Americans head towards the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning against travel and large gatherings — both staples of the season.

What You Need To Know

  • The White House plans to host holiday parties this year despite the CDC's warnings against indoor gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic

  • First Lady Melania Trump’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, said the receptions will be held in “the safest environment possible” 

  • The CDC is urging people not to travel or participate in large gatherings over the holidays to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

  • The U.S. surpassed 12 million coronavirus cases over the weekend and has recorded more than 256,000 deaths from COVID-19

Despite the CDC’s urgent message, the White House does not appear to be cancelling their upcoming holiday parties. 

According to an invitation obtained by ABC News, the first of the parties will take place the week after Thanksgiving, on Monday, Nov. 30. That party will be hosted by Mrs. Melania Trump, the invitation reads, and will be a “holiday reception” at the White House at 11 a.m. 

Another invitation obtained by Axios shows a party will be taking place at the White House two days later, on Dec. 2. This reception is set to be hosted by both the president and first lady, according to the invitation. 

Neither message appears to include any mention of health-safety protocols. 

On Sunday, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, defended the administration’s plan to go ahead with the parties despite the surging cases of coronavirus, saying the receptions will be held in “the safest environment possible.” 

“The People’s House will celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah while providing the safest environment possible,” Grisham said in part. “This includes smaller guest lists, masks will be required and available, social distancing encouraged while on the White House grounds, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the State Floor." 

“Attending the parties will be a very personal choice,” she added. “It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic décor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations.”

Both guests and workers at the parties must comply with safety protocols, Grisham said. The protections in place at the White House will include individually-plated food by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations, covered beverages, and all service staff will wear masks and gloves.

The parties, which will take place inside the White House, do not comply with the most recent CDC guidelines. On Nov. 19, the agency released updated guidance urging Americans not to attend holiday celebrations with people outside of their households. 

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the public health agency’s website says. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, on Sunday echoed the CDC’s concerns, adding that the country will see spikes in COVID cases in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday should Americans not heed the CDC’s recommendations. 

“One of the things we're really concerned about is that as we get into this Thanksgiving season, you're not going to see an increase until weeks later. Things lag,” Fauci told CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday. “So what you don't want to see is another spike in cases as we get colder and colder into December and then you start dealing with the Christmas holiday. We can really be in a very difficult situation.”

Still, the White House is pressing on with its holiday activities — On Monday, the first lady participated in the final christmas tree reception ceremony of the Trump White House when it was delivered by horse-drawn carriage and presented to her  outside the official residence.


First lady Melania Trump waves as she stands next to the 2020 Official White House Christmas tree as it is presented on the North Portico of the White House, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


According to the White House, the Christmas tree comes from Dan and Bryan Trees of West Virginia, and will be displayed in the Blue Room, per tradition. It’s part of the first lady’s annual Christmas decorations throughout the White House, which are typically on display for public tours, though this year public viewing has been scaled back.

On Tuesday, President Trump will participate in the annual tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey. It will be just his fifth public appearance since the election. 

The White House has already been the site of several suspected “super-spreader” events and dozens of staff — along with the president, the first lady and their son — have been infected, along with a long list of campaign aides and other advisers.

Just last week, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as one of the president's advisers, Andrew Giuliani, tested positive for the virus.

The U.S. recently surpassed 12 million coronavirus cases and more than 256,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On Friday, the country set a new record with 196,004 new cases. Nearly 84,000 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, more than at any other time during the pandemic, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.