WASHINGTON – To party or not to party? That is the question.

Washington got a crash course in risk-reward ratios after a spate of boldface names tested positive for the coronavirus this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. got it. D.C. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser got it. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine all announced they got it after attending the exclusive Gridiron Club dinner on April 2.

But none of this has slowed down the juggernaut that is the city’s elite social scene. After two years at home, the power brokers of the nation’s capital are determined to get back to the serious business of having fun. The calculation: The rewards, at least for the vaccinated and boosted, outweigh the possible risk of catching the milder variants of the disease.

And so 450 people packed into the National Gallery of Art for Thursday’s opening of “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” a groundbreaking exhibition of Black art and artists at the city’s most prestigious art museum. Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated during the day after presiding over the landmark confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, and then at night by touring the show and addressing the crowd.

“A lot of history is being made today,” said Harris with a broad smile. “Tonight is exceptional because it is unlike any other in the National Gallery’s history.” The exhibit, she added, is “so extraordinarily significant and important. It tells the story of our shared past but also our shared future.”

“It’s one of the few things in the last two years we haven’t thought about canceling,” said NGA Director Kaywin Feldman, who pointed out that was the gallery’s first big event since March 2020. “We’re moving forward and excited about it. It’s been a long, long two years.”

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For many people at the party, this was a “can’t-miss” event. Museum officials and donors selected to meet directly with Harris were tested beforehand, but the requirements for the rest of the guests to show proof of vaccination and wear masks while not eating or drinking did not appear to be enforced. NGA Chairman David Rubenstein said he had been “tested twice today and so I know I’m OK. And I was just vaccinated with my fourth booster shot today. I try to be careful, but there’s no guarantees in life.”

Rubenstein skipped the Gridiron dinner for the Duke-University of North Carolina NCAA semifinal game in New Orleans. His beloved Duke fell short (“It’s unfortunate but we lost. That’s life. On to the next thing.”) but he was still thankful: “I was supposed to go to Gridiron. I’m glad I didn’t go because everyone got sick.”

While the post-Gridiron cases created a stir, it’s impossible to know which asymptomatic guests walked into the dinner with the virus and who walked out with it – the “brought it or caught it” question. Proof of vaccination was required, but guests closely mingled for hours in close quarters without masks. That being said, no one is sure how much the dinner itself is to blame.

Other attendees who tested positive include Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jamal Simmons, communications director for Harris.

The president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, was also a guest and had to promote her new book virtually after she tested positive Wednesday. (The White House said she had not been in close contact with her brother.) As of Friday afternoon, more than 50 attendees had tested positive – roughly 8% of the guests.

Pelosi, who was not at the dinner, announced Thursday she tested positive, two days after joining President Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate record enrollment in Obamacare. Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock also announced he was positive this week.

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It would be unfair to say Washington is blas̩ about contracting the coronavirus Рthis is still a pandemic, after all. But the mind-set has shifted, and for the vaccinated a positive test is unlikely to result in a serious illness. The desire to get back to normal Рthe fundraisers, the dinners, the schmoozing Рhas trumped the fear most people felt in the early days of the crisis.

The past month has seen a resumption of the kind of events held all the time in D.C. before the pandemic. Biden attended the annual gala of the Ireland Funds, although early in the evening Ireland’s prime minister received notice of a positive test and had to leave. The Gridiron dinner – filled with administration officials, members of Congress, and media and business elite – welcomed 630 people. Local caterers say they’re not getting any cancellations for upcoming parties.

Just this week, philanthropist Adrienne Arsht celebrated her 80th birthday party at her home for 150 of her closest friends. It was held under a huge tent; no testing required because all guests had been vaccinated. Former Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had a small dinner to mark the unveiling of his official portrait. British Ambassador Karen Pierce hosted a dinner at her residence for the White House Historical Association to honor its exhibit on the queen’s visits to Washington.

As Pierce likes to say: “Diplomacy is a contact sport.” While, of course, following the appropriate CDC guidance and regulations of the District of Columbia.

As with so many things in life, it comes down to how much someone wants to show up. For many at the NGA opening, there was little debate.

“A lot of people were not going to miss it,” said deputy director Eric Motley. “The historic nature of this particular moment at the National Gallery kind of transcended a lot of concerns and anxieties about what to go to and what not to go, even in light of Gridiron.”

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Personally, Motley said he still wears masks and decides to attend parties based on the size and guests list. “If it’s a very large event that exceeds a couple hundred people, I tend not to go,” he said. “If I do go, I surround myself with people I know. That helps. But it’s like the flu – anyone can get this ever-evolving covid. I take the risks knowing that the experience is going to be fulfilling and meaningful.”

Which brings us to the upcoming White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the glittery annual celebration of the press, the presidency and the idea that we really can all get along. President Donald Trump spurned the event every year he was in office; Biden has not formally announced his plans but is expected to resume the tradition of good-natured presidential roasting and toasting; Trevor Noah, who just hosted the Grammys, is the celebrity speaker.

Which may be why WHCA President Steven Portnoy was adamant this week that the show will go on. To lower the chances that the 2,500 person dinner will become a superspreader event, the organization is requiring that every guest show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken the day of the April 30 dinner. The WHCA is not requiring proof of vaccination on the theory that most of the most of the people attending are already vaccinated and boosted.

The protocols for the ancillary events are not yet clear, but the before- and after-parties are traditionally packed – the combination of free booze and celebrity sighting has always proved to be irresistible.

The dinner is still two weeks away. Congress just left Washington for the Easter recess; the BA.2 subvariant of omicron continues to rapidly spread throughout the country. There’s no telling which A-list name will be next.

One person who won’t be there is Rubenstein. “It’s jammed packed,” he said. “That one is always too crowded. I think they can live without me.”