September 18, 2021

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Barack Obama celebrates at 60th birthday bash after scaling back guest list because of COVID concerns – USA TODAY

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Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were all smiles in photos captured at the former president’s 60th birthday bash on Saturday night. 

The party, held in the backyard of the couple’s Martha’s Vineyard mansion, was scaled back because of concerns about the rapid spread of COVID-19, Obama’s office said last week.

Grammy Award-winning artist H.E.R. was among the first high-profile guests to share photos from the event, including a shot standing between Barack and Michelle Obama. H.E.R. was among several stars to appear in Netflix’s “We the People,” a modern-day “School of Rock” series executive produced by the Obamas.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE COOLEST @barackobama what an amazing night!!!!!!!” the singer captioned a since-deleted post on Sunday that included a video of her and Obama dancing. A soon-after updated post included a line about being “grateful to have been able to celebrate with you and your family SAFELY.”

Barack Obama, who turned 60 on Wednesday, chose a gray leafy button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, coupled with white pants and cream loafers. The former first lady wore a green, brown and blue patterned floor-length halter gown. 

Other celebrities spotted in Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday included couples John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were also invited, according to a report from The New York Times, which listed Larry David and former Obama adviser David Axelrod among those who were initially invited but then uninvited after the party was scaled back because of COVID-19 concerns. 

In a statement obtained by USA TODAY Wednesday, spokesperson Hannah Hankins said the former president would be celebrating the milestone moment with family and close friends in place of the large outdoor party he had planned.

“This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with COVID safeguards in place. Due to the new spread of the delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends,” the statement reads. “President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

In this Nov. 2, 2020 file photo, former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Turner Field in Atlanta. Obama scaled down his 60th birthday bash planned for this weekend due to the surge of infections blamed on the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Guests were required to adhere to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health protocols, including a testing regimen managed by a COVID-19 coordinator.

The Obamas have been strong advocates for vaccines, emphasizing “the need and the urgency of our communities getting vaccinated” in a video with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley in April and getting vaccinated themselves one month earlier.

“Now, as the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones – African American, Latino – as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal,” Obama said at the time. “The sooner we get more people vaccinated the better off we’re going to be.”

In lieu of gifts, the Obamas encouraged guests to donate to programs that work to support youth, such as My Brother’s Keeper, which helps young men of color; the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which empowers adolescent girls around the world; or the Obama Foundation’s Global Leadership programs, which aim to equip the next generation of emerging leaders

Contributing: Jenna Ryu, Karen Weintraub

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