Pelosi had defended the dinner earlier in the day Friday, telling reporters the venue was “very spaced” and that there were safety protocols in place. “It’s very spaced, we have all the permission and the ventilation from the doctor,” she said.
A senior Democratic aide had told CNN there was enhanced ventilation in the room, that only four members would be at each table, and that the event was happening under the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician.
Republican leaders are also expected to host a dinner for their new members.
The coronavirus pandemic has continued to worsen and the United States hit a new daily record for new cases on Friday, with at least 154,576 cases reported, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Pelosi has frequently criticized President Donald Trump for the White House’s handling of the pandemic.
Earlier Friday during her weekly news conference, the California Democrat admonished Republicans to “listen to science on the way to the vaccine” and highlighted the need for isolation and separation.
“Testing, tracing, treatment, mask-wearing, isolation, separation, sanitation all of those things because the sooner we do that and the sooner we have a vaccine, the sooner we crush the virus,” she said. “I hope it would be an incentive for people to follow science.”
At a separate news conference on Thursday, Pelosi said of the pandemic and the devastation it has caused, “This is a red alert and all hands on deck, but it should have been a long time ago. The President and the Republicans in Congress have ignored by delay, distortion, denial.”
She went on to say, “Deaths have been caused. And what are they doing now? Continuing to ignore, in spite of these numbers that should be so compelling, that are an imperative for us to act upon this. Every kind of avoidance of taking responsibility has been witnessed. Every chance that we had for testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, separation, sanitation, that science tells us to do, they have ignored.”
CNN’s Haley Brink and Amir Vera contributed to this report.