Remember the recent viral video showing maskless people dancing their butts off in a Christmas Party conga line to the Bee Gees?
The footage from the Whitestone Republican Party, a group of Republicans in Queens, New York, was greeted with derision and horror online for its blatant disregard of social distancing and masks as the state continues to battle another wave of COVID-19.
Now at least one person who attended the party is hospitalized with the virus, according to a report from Queens Daily Eagle.
The local newspaper spoke to James Trent, chair of the Queens Village Republican Club, from his hospital bed in Long Island on Wednesday, where he is suffering from COVID-19 complications.
“I wasn’t on the conga line. I ate by myself,” he told the Daily Eagle. “I don’t know how I got this.”
Trent said he believed he “wasn’t doing anything risky,” despite public health guidelines discouraging people from meeting in groups indoors, particularly unmasked.
“It was a wonderful time and a great party, but I’m not happy I got sick,” Trent told the Eagle.
Trent developed symptoms two days after attending the party (it’s unclear if he caught the virus at the party or already had it and was contagious to other guests at the time).
Over 40 people can be seen at the Dec. 9 party in the video, over a dozen of whom are getting down on the dance floor. Vickie Paladino, who is running for a spot in New York’s city council, leads the conga line behind a man carrying a Trump 2020 flag. Only one person is wearing a mask.
“The media hysteria around this is shameful, it really is,” said Thomas Paladino, the chief strategist of his mother’s city council campaign, when BuzzFeed News reached out to the Whitestone Republican Party for comment about the COVID infection.
Paladino said he had not spoken to Trent, but that he was glad he was recovering and had no regrets about attending the party and did not believe it put anyone’s health at risk.
“It speaks very poorly of our society and our media and ourselves that an ordinary holiday party is now being made into something that we’re supposed to feel ashamed of,” said Paladino, recalling that he once fell down stairs at a holiday party and broke his ankle.
“Do I regret going to the party? Maybe,” Paladino added. “Is it the party’s fault? No. Life happens.”
The Whitestone Republican Party also posted a message on its Facebook page after the video went viral.
“So apparently the media is freaking out because we dared to celebrate the holidays in a perfectly ordinary and unremarkable way — with a gathering of friends and family,” the group said in a statement. “A good time was had by all. We abided by all precautions. But we are not the mask police, nor are we the social distancing police.”
The Eagle reported that it is aware of at least two other guests who tested positive for the coronavirus after the party.
“If you do not take precautions, your likelihood that you will get the virus is higher,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when the video of the event was released just before Christmas. “COVID conga lines are not smart. That’s my official position.”