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House Democrats criticized for new member indoor dinner plans during COVID-19 spike

Critics called it a bad example given the major surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire Friday when it was learned House Democrats would be hosting an indoor dinner for new members. Critics called it a bad example given the major surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

NBC reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell tweeted out a photo of the dinner space set up at the Capitol building Friday.

"(Pelosi) told me it’s safe. 'It’s very spaced,' she said and there is enhanced ventilation and the Capitol physician signed off," Caldwell tweeted.

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With the U.S. on the verge of reporting 1 million new cases in the span of a week and a record number of hospitalizations, people on social media blasted the plan.

"It's not "safe"--it may be safe*r* but it's still terrible optics during a pandemic," tweeted epidemiologist Tara Smith.

"Why not hold the dinner in six months when the vaccine is being deployed? This is reckless and offensive," tweeted Molly Knight.

Others noted that people are being told to consider downsizing or canceling their Thanksgiving dinner plans while this event was set to go on.

Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, later tweeted that guidance from the Office of Attending Physician was followed. Despite that, plans were changed and the new members were given boxed meals to-go instead.

"To be a further model for the nation, this event has been modified to allow Members-elect to pick up their meals to go in a socially-distanced manner," Hammill tweeted.

USA TODAY reports Senate Republicans have been holding lunches every week in a closed, indoor space.

But how to tackle the pandemic has become highly politicized, with Democrats generally siding with the recommendations of scientists -- which includes social distancing. It's a likely reason why the Democrats' indoor dinner plans caught such a reaction.

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