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State Republican official was hospitalized with COVID-19 after attending White House Hanukkah party

Tom Mountain
Tom MountainSande Young

The vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee is battling COVID-19 after attending what he described as a largely maskless holiday party at the White House earlier this month.

“I didn’t listen to the warnings of my own family, and now I’m paying the price,” MassGOP vice chairman Tom Mountain said in a phone interview Saturday.

Mountain, 60, who was hospitalized twice in recent weeks, said he likely contracted the coronavirus at the annual White House Hanukkah party. The event took place amid the worst surge in COVID-19 this country has seen since the pandemic began.

“No one can ever say for sure exactly where they got it, but I’ll say this: Before the party, I was in perfectly good health,” he said. “Three days later, I was in the hospital with COVID, and it was all downhill from there.”

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Mountain, who also chairs the Newton Republican City Committee, said he attended the first of two Hanukkah parties hosted on Wednesday, Dec. 9, in the White House’s East Wing. The event was split in half to reduce the size of the gathering, but the list of attendees was still well over 100.

Though everyone was required to wear masks in the line to enter the event, Mountain said, there were no temperature checks or other prevention protocols in place. And once inside, “hardly anyone was wearing masks,” he said. “People were eating, it was a big banquet.”

In order to comply with state testing laws, Mountain took a COVID test after returning to Massachusetts. He received his results that Friday evening: He was positive — and hardly surprised.

“I was deteriorating rapidly anyway,” said Mountain, who added that he’d already started showing symptoms before his test on Friday. The next morning, he was in the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he spent the day before being discharged. However, his condition worsened yet again the following week, and he returned to the hospital on Dec. 19.

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“It’s not fun,” he said.” I came very close — not once but twice — to them hooking me up to a ventilator.”

Mountain was released for the second time that Saturday after approximately eight hours in the hospital, and remains in recovery at his home in Newton with moderate symptoms.

“There are good days and bad days, but today I’m having a bad day,” he said. “I have horrible coughing fits, sweating profusely. … I couldn’t even talk on the phone last week, but it’s getting a bit better.”

Mountain admitted that his wife cautioned him strongly against going to the party, refusing to go herself, but he said he felt it was his duty to represent the state’s Republican party at the event as both the party’s vice chairman and vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Jewish Committee.

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Mountain, adding that he was the only person from Massachusetts at the event.

Mountain explained that there was a lot of movement at the indoor banquet, with everyone mingling, eating, and taking photographs. Attendees at his event were disappointed that President Trump never arrived; instead, the president made an appearance at the second of two Hanukkah events that night.

Mountain said that he would never have attended the party had he known someone there was spreading the virus, and said that he wishes he had heeded his family’s advice.

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“I was one of those people who thought I would never be a statistic,” he said. “But any large gathering like that where you have people from all over the country, somebody’s bound to have it.”

Now, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and mother-in-law have also all tested positive for the virus, he said.

“I have to admit I wasn’t the most careful about wearing the face masks,” Mountain said, “but now I’m zealous about it. I have no doubt about their necessity.”

Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ivscott99.


Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.