A large private party planned for President Obama’s 60th birthday on the Vineyard this weekend has been canceled amid fierce public backlash and rising Covid cases, as the Delta variant spreads on the Island. The party will be scaled back to family and friends, according to a statement sent to the Gazette Wednesday morning.

“This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with covid safeguards in place,” the statement said. “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. President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

The statement was provided to the Gazette by Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty, who confirmed that it was sent to him early Wednesday morning by a staff member for the Obama family.

The Obamas had been planning to host hundreds of people at a grand bash at their sprawling home on the Edgartown Great Pond. Reports about the celebrity-studded party were spreading like wildfire on social media and across the Island all week, with no public statement from the Obamas or confirmation of the details.

A request for a public statement from the Gazette emailed to the Obama office early Tuesday morning went unanswered all day Wednesday.

Instead, communications staffers and party planners kept close guard over information regarding the event, shuttling a vague statement through local town officials even as concern about Covid-19 cases climbed regionally and on the Vineyard.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Tuesday, Mr. Hagerty said that he had been bombarded throughout the day with calls from almost every national media outlet regarding the event.

“And international,” he added.

He confirmed the party, but did not know any details other than that planners had hired a Covid coordinator and that the event would comply with federal, state and regional public health regulations.

“I’m in touch with the Covid coordinator overseeing protocols for this outdoor event, and have been briefed on their plans to comply with all CDC, state and local guidance,” Mr. Hagerty said in the prepared statement Tuesday.

But those plans changed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, when organizers sent a contrite dis-invitation to prospective guests, time-stamped at about 2 a.m. and headed, “With Regrets: An Update on 44x60 Plans,” saying the party would be significantly scaled back amid concerns about the Delta variant and Covid spread.

The Gazette obtained a copy of the email,

“Please accept our apologies for not having you with us to celebrate this occasion in person and for any inconvenience this has caused. Please know this is done with great regret,” it said in part. ”At the end of the day, the safety and well-being of friends, family, and community will always be the Obama’s top priority — and they are eagerly looking forward to seeing everyone again sometime in the near future.”

It continued:

“Please know how grateful President Obama is for the love you’ve shown him as he approaches this milestone birthday and we appreciate your discretion given the level of scrutiny on this event.”

President Obama turns 60 today, August 4.