Controversy Brews Over D.C. Socialite's Backyard Party After Guests Reportedly Get COVID-19
Ashley Bronczek reportedly hosted the event in her backyard on June 18 and developed coronavirus symptoms "within hours" of the dinner
A socialite who hosted a gathering of more than two dozen people at her Washington, D.C. home earlier this month tested positive for coronavirus shortly after the bash, prompting a swirl of speculation other members of her elite inner circle may have become infected, the Washington Post reported.
Ashley Taylor Bronczek, 37, held a dinner and viewing party of a livestreamed Washington Ballet fundraiser, which she co-chaired, on June 18 in her Spring Valley backyard.
Though it remains unclear how or when she contracted the virus and to whom she may have passed it, she began exhibiting symptoms “within hours” of the dinner, and was diagnosed shortly after, the Post reported. There is no indication that she was aware, before the party, of her COVID-19-positive status.
Several other guests who attended the fête also reportedly tested positive.
“Everyone’s angry,” an unidentified neighborhood mom told the paper. “Everyone’s trying to figure out who has it.”
Bronczek, who is the granddaughter of former Lyndon B. Johnson adviser Lloyd Hand and jewelry designer Ann Hand, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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Photographer Tony Powell snapped photos of the event for Washington Life magazine, and told the Post that while only he and the wait staff wore masks, the get-together was “very well-intentioned.”
“I did notice there was a lot more space between people,” he said. “They were not as close as they normally are.”
The Post reported Bronczek took a week to take down photos of the event that she had shared to her Instagram page.
At the time of the event, Washington, D.C. was still in Phase 1 of its stay-at-home order, which prohibited mass gatherings of more than 10 people.
The fundraiser for the Washington Ballet was initially supposed to be a black-tie dinner in May in celebration of its 75th anniversary, but instead became an hour-long event that was livestreamed, according to the Post. It was reportedly a financial success, pulling in more than $800,000.
The Washington Ballet's event adhered to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the D.C. Department of Health; for example, only dancers who have been sheltering in place together performed together, a spokesperson for the ballet tells PEOPLE.
"Regarding the dinner Ms. Bronczek hosted at her own home after the gala, this was a private gathering, and was not organized by TWB," the spokesperson says. "The Washington Ballet does not have any information about it. We can confirm that no TWB employees/artists attended the dinner."
Bronczek, who has three young children with husband Matt Bronczek, is the co-founder and CEO of Secretly Gifting, a personal gift concierge service, according to her LinkedIn. She’s also the founder of Once Upon a Prom, a nonprofit that provides formalwear to underprivileged teenagers.
A 2011 Post column announcing her engagement to Bronczek dubbed her a Washington “It Girl,” and said she moved to D.C. from Los Angeles to manage her grandmother’s boutique and model in ads for the store.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Washington, D.C. has seen at least 10,327 cases and 551 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The U.S., meanwhile, has had at least 2.6 million cases and 127,561 deaths.
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