A Queens man is in the hospital with COVID-19 after attending a local Republican group's indoor Christmas party that was widely criticized for its maskless "COVID conga line" earlier this month.
The Queens Daily Eagle reported Wednesday that James Trent is currently hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms that appeared just days after attending the Whitestone Republican Club's controversial bash. Another attendee and his wife are also believed to have tested positive for the virus, according to the outlet.
“I wasn’t on the conga line. I ate by myself,” Trent, the chair of the affiliated Queens Village Republican Club, told the Eagle. “I don’t know how I got this.”
Roughly 50 people attended the December 9th event at the Il Braco restaurant in Little Neck. With the exception of a few waitstaff, almost none of the partygoers were seen wearing masks.
A conga line led by club president and City Council candidate Vickie Paladino attracted widespread attention on Twitter, and the ire of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"COVID conga lines are not smart. That’s my official position," Cuomo said of the video. "Why you would do an unmasked conga line in the middle of a pandemic, whatever your political persuasion, defies logical explanation."
At the time, the Whitestone Republican Club fired back with their own statement: “Adults have the absolute right to make their own decisions, and clearly many chose to interact like normal humans and not paranoid zombies in hazmat suits.”
Robert Hornak, a spokesperson for the club, did not respond to repeated inquiries on Wednesday.
Reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon, another attendee, Christopher Wright, said it was the first he was hearing of possible spread at the party.
Still, the 37-year-old said he was not concerned by the news of a guest's hospitalization. Even if he had known that fellow attendees were infected with the virus, Wright said, he still would have gone to the party without a mask.
"That event was an expression of people who don't want to do the whole mandatory mask thing, getting together and using our freedom to have fun the way we want to have fun," Wright told Gothamist. "If people are coming to that, they know what they're getting into."