Earlier this month, Tom Mountain, a Massachusetts Republican Party leader, posed for a maskless photo in front of a silver menorah as dozens of other guests without face coverings mingled nearby at a White House Hanukkah party.
Three days later, the vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of covid-19 that later left him close to needing a ventilator.
Now, as Mountain recovers at home in Newton, Mass., he says he likely contracted the virus at the White House event.
“Lets put it this way: when I went down to Washington, D.C. for the White House Hanukkah event, I was perfectly fine,” Mountain, 60, told WJAR. “And three days later after that event, I was in the hospital . . . ready to be put on a lifesaving ventilator.”
The Dec. 9 event where Mountain believes he contracted the novel coronavirus was one of at least 25 indoor holiday celebrations the White House scheduled despite warnings from the Trump administration’s public health experts to avoid large gatherings and travel to mitigate the spread of a virus that has killed more than 333,000 Americans.
The White House holiday parties came months after a Rose Garden introduction for then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett became a ‘super spreader’ event that left President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and more than a dozen attendees and administration officials with the virus.
Asked to comment on Mountain’s claim that he likely contracted the virus at the Hanukkah celebration, a spokeswoman for the first lady referred The Washington Post to earlier statements touting safety measures at the holiday events, including reduced crowd sizes and mask requirements.
Mountain, who also serves as the vice chairman of the state’s Republican Jewish Committee, said his wife urged him to skip the White House Hanukkah celebration over fears that he would contract the virus, the Boston Globe reported. She chose to stay home but Mountain told WJAR that he felt “politically and morally obligated to go.”
He attended the first of two Dec. 9 Hanukkah celebrations, which were split up to reduce the crowd size, Mountain told the Globe. Attendees were required to wear a mask while waiting in line but Mountain said many guests removed them once inside.
Mountain, sporting a “Trump” jacket and a red-white-and-blue tie, also strolled through the East Wing without a mask.
“People would just leisurely and gingerly take off their mask to mingle, to schmooze,” he told WJAR. “I don’t even think some people wore masks the entire time. And again, I was guilty as anyone else. I just wasn’t wearing a mask.”
Mountain spent the three-hour party snapping pictures in front of the president’s official seal and alongside some of the 100-plus other attendees, including attorney Sidney Powell. Mountain said many were disappointed that the president didn’t make an appearance.
Trump did briefly speak at the second Hanukkah party held that day, where he repeated baseless claims of mass election fraud as a crowd chanted, “Four more years!”
Mountain was tested for the coronavirus when he returned home on Dec. 11, the Globe reported, as he began experiencing symptoms. His results came back positive and the next day, as his condition worsened, he was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
He was released a day later, but returned to the hospital the following week when his symptoms became more severe again. Twice, Mountain said, he was close to being put on a ventilator.
Although his wife skipped the White House event, she and the other relatives including Mountain’s son, daughter in-law and mother in-law all later tested positive for the coronavirus as well, according to the Globe.
Mountain said he regrets attending the event and not taking the virus seriously enough. Some of the symptoms are still with him, he added. He is still experiencing coughing attacks and sweating profusely. Last week, he could not speak over the phone, he told the Globe.
“I didn’t listen to the warnings of my own family, and now I’m paying the price,” Mountain told the Globe.