Barrett swearing-in differs markedly from 'superspreader'

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President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Amy Coney Barrett and her husband Jesse stand on the Blue Room Balcony after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to her on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Barrett was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice by the Senate earlier in the evening. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – This time they mostly wore masks.

It's been only a month since President Donald Trump's Rose Garden event to announce he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court. That packed celebration for friends and allies of the president and his high court nominee turned into a coronavirus superspreader event.

When the just-confirmed Barrett returned to the White House on Monday to take her constitutional oath, the celebration was moved to the broader South Lawn, chairs for more than 200 guests were spread about 6 feet apart, and the mask-wearers greatly outnumbered those who declined to cover their faces.

Some participants — including Trump and Barrett — were unmasked.

But the event had a markedly different feel than the Sept. 26 Rose Garden gathering. More than two dozen attendees — including Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Thom Tillis — tested positive after attending the earlier White House celebration.

Back then, the attendees showed a measure of ease — exchanging handshakes and hugs and standing close together as they conversed — that belied the reality that the nation was in the midst of a pandemic. The crowd was then ushered indoors for a reception.

Hours before Monday's ceremony, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser questioned the wisdom of holding another large gathering at a moment when coronavirus cases were spiking in the U.S. She accused the president of flouting “scientific evidence and common sense.”

“I know that there were a number of people who attended that Rose Garden event who became sick, who are quite embarrassed by their participation, who had to go back to their constituencies and communities and explain their behavior,” Bowser said. “And so we don’t want any folks, our residents, certainly from D.C. or in our surrounding region, to be in that situation.”