A surge in COVID-19 cases is reportedly wreaking havoc on Martha's Vineyard two weeks after former President Barack Obama hosted an extravagant birthday celebration on the island.
To this point, health officials have not made a connection between the 60th birthday bash and the outbreak, but the timing is hard to ignore.
What are the details?
The Virginia Gazette reported this week that Martha's Vineyard Hospital's emergency room is "jam-packed" and that the health facility grapples with its largest number of COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic.
During a press briefing Wednesday, hospital officials said that three patients are currently hospitalized with the virus and a fourth patient is being monitored for COVID-like symptoms, with one of those patients reportedly in serious condition. A fifth COVID-19 patient had to be critically airlifted to Boston last week.
"This is the highest amount of COVID-positive patient activity that we've had since the onset of the pandemic," the head of hospital operations and chief nurse, Clair Seguin, said.
The hospital's president and CEO, Denise Schepici, added that the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases has come at an already busy time for the facility.
"We're bursting at the seams," she said. "We're hoping there will be a reprieve in September. But that's a prayer right now."
She added that the hospital has resorted to urging residents not to come to the facility for treatment unless they are feeling "really, really sick" and believe the issue to be "an emergency."
What's the background?
The increase in hospitalizations follows a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases in the area over the past couple of weeks. Dukes County, where Martha's Vineyard is located, recorded a 1,350% increase in new cases last week.
Amid the spike in new infections, however, Janet Hathaway, assistant to the Edgartown Board of Health, said "it's too early to tell" whether Obama's party is the culprit.
Following mounting criticism ahead of the party, the Obamas announced that they would "significantly scale down" the celebration, which was originally slated to include 500 guests and more than 200 staff.
However, photos of the supposedly downsized party still showed massive tents constructed to house a lineup of celebrity guests on the Obamas' vast multimillion-dollar waterfront estate.
Obama's version of "family and close friends" still included a star-studded cast of guests such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, Eddie Vedder, Tom Hanks, and musician Questlove. Don Cheadle, Dwayne Wade, Stephen Colbert, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, and others were also reportedly present for the shindig. Presidential climate envoy John Kerry even rolled up to the party in his private jet.
Several social media posts showed a maskless Obama and other guests enjoying themselves at the party until its conclusion at around midnight.
A local police officer allegedly said the band of celebrities leaving caused a traffic "s***show."