Before White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Lots of Risk-Benefit Calculation

“Everybody was vaccinated, everybody was masked except when speaking,” he said. “But we also went to restaurants and did other things, and I didn’t get infected, so I feel very good about that.”

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist who is leading a new program on pandemic preparedness at Brown University’s School of Public Health, said she recently attended a large indoor conference and was one of the few wearing masks. She has not gotten Covid-19 and does not want to, but, she said, “I am also not completely rearranging my life trying to dodge it.”

Everyone has a different risk tolerance, and experts say it is important not to judge other people’s choices. But the president, being the president, has an obligation to the public to not get sick, said Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, the director of N.Y.U. Langone’s division of medical ethics. He said Mr. Biden should not attend the dinner, ticking off the reasons in an email.

“He is high-risk and occupies a very high office at a time of war,” Dr. Caplan wrote, adding: “He must be hypersafe. The correspondents’ dinner is highly optional. With the V.P. sick, he really needs to protect himself. His office imposes a duty of precaution.”

Ms. Psaki conceded that Mr. Biden could contract Covid, adding that if he did, the White House would be “very transparent” about it. She said the White House took numerous precautions — beyond those of most workplaces — to protect Mr. Biden, including social distancing, regular testing and wearing masks during meetings.

Yet she also noted that the president was traveling more lately, having concluded that getting out into the country was “vitally important to him, to his presidency, to the American people.”

Still, there is an uneasy feeling here — and a worry that maybe a gathering of 2,600 people, including journalists and politicians who have spent more than two years warning about the dangers of the pandemic, may not be the best look.

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