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Socialite Is 'So Sorry' for Putting 'Others at Risk' at Outdoor Party Before COVID-19 Diagnosis

People logo People 7/3/2020 Robyn Merrett
Anne Carlisle et al. posing for the camera: Ashley Bronczek © SecretlyGifting/ Instagram Ashley Bronczek

Ashley Taylor Bronczek, a socialite in Washington, D.C., has issued an apology for putting "others at risk" after she tested positive for COVID-19 following a backyard party she hosted at her home last month.

In a statement shared via Instagram on Friday, Bronczek, 37, wrote that she hopes "people will use this as a teachable moment and learn from my mistake."

"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 began. "Altogether I had 11 couples who were personal friends celebrating the success of the event."

The next morning, Bronczek said, "I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck."

"I talked to my personal physician, got a COVID test that day and immediately began telling my friends about my COVID-related symptoms," she continued. "Once my positive test result was confirmed, I contacted everyone I had been exposed to over the past week to alert them and apologize."

"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 wrote. "No matter how well-intentioned, no matter who you are, now is not the time for social gatherings."

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Bronczek concluded her statement by urging people to "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 has three young children with husband Matt Bronczek and is the co-founder and CEO of Secretly Gifting, a personal gift concierge service, according to her LinkedIn. The granddaughter of former Lyndon B. Johnson adviser Lloyd Hand and jewelry designer Ann Hand, Bronczek is also the founder of Once Upon a Prom, a nonprofit that provides formalwear to underprivileged teenagers.

News of the gathering, which was attended by around two dozen people including the hosts, came to light on Wednesday after the Washington Post reported that a number of guests have now tested positive.

“Everyone’s angry,” an unidentified neighborhood mom told the paper. “Everyone’s trying to figure out who has it.”

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.”

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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.

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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 told 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 said. "The Washington Ballet does not have any information about it. We can confirm that no TWB employees/artists attended the dinner."

As of Friday afternoon, Washington, D.C. has seen at least 10,435 cases and 555 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The U.S., meanwhile, has had at least 2.7 million cases and 129,190 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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