Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was one of dozens of Republican supporters of a secret party that critics condemned as disregarding the spirit of the stringent new COVID measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Some 65 guests were expected to attend the annual gala of the New York Young Republican Club, which took place Thursday night in an unfamiliar location in New Jersey, fearing that the gathering would attract protests.
Photos shared on Twitter showed Gaetz with about two dozen people at an indoor black tie event. There were more people in the background of the photo.
The GOP representative mocked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for enforcing tighter coronavirus restrictions in a state that has seen nearly 20,000 deaths and 300,000 cases.
A post rejected by Gaetz stated: “Hey @NYGovCuomo, I’m in @NYYRC with @mattgaetz. Come and get me.”
Hey @NYGovCuomo, I’m at the @NYYRC with @mattgaetz. Come and get me. pic.twitter.com/tGte07GbRh
– Joel Fischer (@JFNYC1) December 4, 2020
Another Republican deputy said this: “Catch us if you can, communist aCuomo. The show will go on forever for patriots…”
Members of the public responded to Twitter by posting graphs of nationwide COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths, with an increasing trend.
Elisa Braver, who described herself as an epidemiologist in her Twitter biography, wrote that “every participant should assume that they may have come into contact with #COVID19” and urged those who either quarantine or get tested to do so. “Doctors and nurses are overwhelmed with hospitalization with #COVID19,” she said, “Stop the spread.
The party included a cocktail reception, an awards ceremony and a three-course meal. Tickets cost up to $325.
The event’s website said that the temperatures of all guests would be checked before entering the venue. Interestingly, the website also stated that tickets could be refunded in case of postponement or cancellation due to COVID, but the event took place despite strict rules for meetings in closed rooms.
According to reports, Sarah Palin was supposed to attend the event, but withdrew due to COVID restrictions.
Governor Cuomo announced new restrictions last month that included requiring bars, restaurants and gyms to close daily from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The governor also announced that meetings in private homes indoors and outdoors should be restricted to no more than 10 people.
“This restriction is being introduced due to the recent proliferation of COVID caused by small indoor gatherings, including Halloween parties,” the guideline said. “These gatherings have become a major cause of cluster activity throughout the state.
Cuomo said, “If you look at where the cases come from when you do the contact tracing, you will see that they come from three main areas: Facilities where alcohol is served, gyms, and closed-door gatherings in private homes.
“The reason we were able to contain the spread in New York is because we were one step ahead of COVID. You know where it’s going; stop it before it gets there.”
The New York Young Republican Club’s event was held in neighboring New Jersey, a state where even indoor meetings are limited to 10 people, except for “religious and political activities protected by the First Amendment,” which must be limited to 150 people or 25 percent of a room’s capacity, whichever is lower.
However, the directive states that all participants in indoor meetings must wear face masks and maintain a distance of two meters.
A spokesman for the New York Young Republican Club, founded in 1911 and claiming to be the oldest and largest young Republican club in the United States, told Washington Newsday: “There was no ban. We obeyed all the proper laws and regulations of New Jersey. It was a great event, and we were happy to conduct it.
On Thursday, the New York Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side of the city was sprayed and black bags in the form of body bags were left outside the building to protest the group’s planned Christmas and Hanukkah social.
“Last night the Metropolitan Republican Club was attacked and vandalized in a disgusting manner that should be tolerated by everyone regardless of their political affiliation,” the club said in a statement. “We condemn the unscrupulous action against our private property, which was perpetrated by cowards.
Washington Newsday contacted Gaetz to comment.