Socialite Tests Positive For COVID-19 After Hosting Backyard Gathering: ‘I Put My Friends At Risk'

by Madison Vanderberg
Secretly Gifting / Instagram

The D.C.-area philanthropist says she hopes others “learn from my mistake” and stop hosting “social gatherings”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, lots of people are itching to return to normal life and have begun testing the waters by returning to restaurants or even hosting small outdoor gatherings with friends, but if you’re Washington D.C-area socialite Ashley Taylor Bronczek, even socially distanced and relatively small outdoor dinner parties aren’t safe from the threat of coronavirus. Bronczek, co-founder of Secretly Gifting, a personal gift concierge service, and Once Upon a Prom, a non-profit that gifts formalwear to teens, has issued an apology on Instagram for putting “others at risk” after she tested positive for COVID-19 following a backyard party and fundraiser she hosted at her home last month.

The Washington Post broke the story on July 1, 2020, and said that roughly two dozen people (not including the caterers and photographer) attended an outdoor fundraiser for the Washington Ballet at Bronczek’s house on June 18, 2020. The publication reported that after the outdoor event, Bronczek and a few guests all tested positive for COVID-19.

Bronczek initially shared photos from the backyard event on her Instagram profile, but eventually deleted them and took to social media to confirm the reports and apologize, calling the party and her subsequent COVID-19 diagnosis, a “teachable moment.”

“On June 18 I hosted a private dinner in my backyard following the Washington Ballet’s online fundraiser of which I was a co-chair,” Bronczek wrote in the Instagram statement. “Altogether I had 11 couples who were personal friends celebrating the success of the event. The next morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck.”

According to The Washington Post, the only people wearing masks were the photographer Tony Powell and the wait staff, though Powell — who was shooting the party for Washington Life magazine and even shared the party photos on his own professional Instagram account before eventually taking them down — told the publication that the event “was very well intentioned. I did notice there was a lot more space between people. They were not as close as they normally are.”

“I have only one hope and that is that people will use this as a teachable moment and learn from my mistake. I am so sorry that I put my friends, family and others at risk,” Bronczek added in her statement. “No matter how well-intentioned, no matter who you are, now is not the time for social gatherings.”

There’s no reason to believe that Bronczek knowingly had coronavirus when she hosted the backyard fete, but this really goes to show you that not even a “small” outdoor dinner party among close friends and family is safe. Though outdoor gatherings are said to be less risky than indoor activities, just last month, 18 family members from Texas tested positive for COVID-19 after attending one birthday party.

“I urge you to please, please wear masks when going out and socially distance whenever possible so that you don’t expose friends and loved ones to the risks and ravages of this horrific virus,” Bronczek concluded her cautionary tale.