Rejoice! The Influencers Have Decided They Are Done With Coronavirus.

COVID-19 is far from over, but you wouldn't know it from a scroll through your Instagram

December 18, 2020 8:59 am
Rejoice! The Influencers Have Decided They Are Done With Coronavirus.
Getty Images/Gustavo Caballero

When Kim Kardashian West shared photos from her 40th birthday party on Twitter back in October, the internet did not share her “humbled” and “blessed” sentiments. The reality TV show star/business mogul and her “inner circle” of about 30 people took a trip to a private island where they “danced,” “rode bikes” and “swam near whales” so they could, for just a brief, fleeting moment in time, “pretend things were normal.”

But before you get irrationally angry at a multi-millionaire partying during a deadly global pandemic, West made sure to preface her post with a disclaimer: She and her intimate circle all quarantined for TWO WEEKS! and had !MULTIPLE! health screenings before they embarked on their super necessary tropical birthday extravaganza, so no need to worry.

Shockingly, the internet still wasn’t convinced and proceeded to roast the hell out of West. Her egregiously tone-deaf caption eventually became a meme, with many using the sentence that seemed to irk people the most, “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time,” as a template.

The jokes were an easy vessel to address the inane notion it’s entirely normal to fly your inner circle to a private island under any circumstances, let alone in a pandemic. But they also served as a way to let out some rightful anger and frustrations about how celebrities, influencers and the ultra-wealthy have been experiencing a different pandemic than the rest of us. One photo from West’s post seemed to sum this up perfectly: as the maskless partygoers were enjoying their vacation, in the background stood masked island workers warily serving them. 

It wasn’t just that she was boasting about a luxury island getaway during a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and have been given virtually no relief from Washington. (It’s worth pointing out here that one-third of U.S. households say they are likely to face eviction in the next two months, while Congress is still debating whether to give Americans a hefty $600 stimulus check.)

It was also that she and her similarly well-endowed guests had access to “multiple” medical screenings and COVID-19 tests, while many Americans have dealt with test shortages — waiting hours in line at Urgent Care or for weeks just to schedule a test. And it was, of course, that West and her close-knit circle were putting workers and others at risk of catching a virus that has now killed over 300,000 Americans — and then trying to negate those warranted criticisms and justify their carelessness by slapping a safety disclaimer on it.

West isn’t the only person to do this. Celebrities, influencers and even people you probably know have made it a point to reassure their social followings of the appropriate measures they’ve taken to ensure a safe, COVID-free vacation or event. Surely you’ve encountered a few wedding posts on Facebook this year with a caption that explains what protocols the bride and groom implemented in order to safely have a 200-guest wedding. The sentiment has been so wildly used it’s become an internet joke.

While negative test results and adherence to CDC guidelines have been touted by everyone engaging in ill-advised celebrations, watching celebs and influencers navigate COVID-19 via their giant platforms has been a somewhat entertaining but ultimately infuriating experience.

Many of the major headlines this year concerning influencers and the pandemic were about how they just couldn’t stop partying. In late July as California cases and deaths reached record-level highs, YouTuber Tana Mongeau threw a party wherein multiple people tested positive afterward. In a video taken at the party, Mongeau tells the camera, “Listen, we don’t fucking care.” After issuing a heartfelt apology shortly after, Mongeau repented by partying even more. In August, TikTokker Bryce Hall threw himself a 21st birthday party so massive, the city of L.A. cut his power off. And lest we forget the one influencer who makes all others look utterly pragmatic, Jake Paul told the Daily Beast he thinks COVID-19 is a “hoax,” and was most recently pictured at a huge party in Calabasas after his boxing match against Nate Robinson.

Other influencers, meanwhile, have gone the Kim K route, and it’s arguably an even more insufferable act to witness. At least Jake Paul’s not trying to hide the fact that he’s a rotten asshole.

For a few weeks in October, as the rest of us braced for the second wave of the virus, clothing brand to the influencers Revolve secretly hosted an influencer glamping getaway in Arizona. Revolve has a habit of sending fashion and beauty “it” girls to private vacation spots — where they pose against Insta-worthy backdrops and attend lavish dinners while dressed head-to-toe in the brand — for years, and apparently it’s a ritual not even 2020 could break. Before the brand could post the dozens of photos that featured fashionably dressed influencers dining near the Grand Canyon, seductively drinking coffee and prancing around in cowboy hats, Revolve posted its “please don’t cancel us” disclaimer.

“a few weeks in october we went on 4 separate road trips in the safest way possible, each with different quarantined groups to explore gorgeous outdoor locations, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite and Russian River,” the Instagram post read underneath an aesthetically pleasing video introduction to #campREVOLVE.

“to keep it safe, each group was required to quarantine and test for COVID-19 before and after the trip. all attendees were given daily wellness screenings during the trip and anyone who was not part of a pre-existing quarantine ‘team’ was required to wear PPE and maintain social distance at all times.”

Is an open-air camping getaway as bad as a 100-person house party? No. Is it necessary to fly a bunch of influencers out to a state dealing with its own COVID issues so you can further promote your brand? Uh, no. And as previously discussed, now is really not the time to flaunt your lush glamping tents.

Other big-named celebrities like Cardi B have caught flak for going against expert-recommended protocols and hosting large gatherings for Thanksgiving. “12kids and 25 adults over the holidays.It was lit !!” the rapper tweeted. After receiving backlash, Cardi B assured her fans and critics she had spent a lot of money getting her family tested, which seemed to appease fans.

It’s still unclear if she shelled out even more cash to test everyone attending the huge, maskless nightclub party she threw for her husband Offset just this past Monday.

But no one has mastered the art of the COVID disclaimer quite like Danielle Bernstein, who runs the wildly popular fashion blog and Instagram account WeWoreWhat and has around 2.5 million Insta followers. Bernstein has gotten herself into too many scandals to count this year, but a major one sparked when she announced she had tested positive for COVID in September.

Bernstein had received backlash all summer for attending parties, dining out and galavanting maskless around the Hamptons, to the extent that an anonymous Instagram account was created to document her “complete disregard for a global pandemic.”

After getting called out for attending a large maskless party in July by other Instagram accounts and on the popular snarky Reddit community r/BlogSnark, Bernstein took to her Instagram stories to explain how safe she was actually being, noting everyone had to submit test results prior to the party.

“Just wanted to let you know I’m with people that I’ve been quarantined with for the past few weeks — when we’re around new people we wear masks, when I walk into a restaurant I wear a mask, when I’m in public I wear a mask,” she wrote.

“This is a private party with all people we know the health status of … everyone had to submit test results ahead of time. I totally get how it looks though and don’t want to set a bad example. It’s so important to still be so safe!”

Well in that case!
Instagram/Danielle Bernstein

Following her positive test, Bernstein defended herself against critics once more on her Instagram stories, saying that she followed CDC guidelines, wore masks when necessary and “lived life in phase FOUR reopening of NY,” according to Page Six.

Since recovering from COVID, Bernstein has continued to document her trips back and forth from the Hamptons, donating antibodies and even a quick vacation to St. Barts, not before, of course, “fully fully” recognizing how fortunate she is to be able to “safely” travel right now. Bernstein also regularly lets followers in on the intimate dinner parties she hosts in her West Village apartment, opulent affairs that have replaced the ones she would regularly show off via her Instagram stories while dining out. One version included Bernstein, her five presumably COVID-free friends and a masked-up sushi chef preparing their meal:

Is all this criticism a bit too harsh? Perhaps. There have been endless debates on whether publicly shaming people for going against guidelines does any good, especially, as Business Insider wrote back in September, since public concern can quickly devolve into harassment. Influencers and even private individuals have dealt with death threats and online condemnation due to coronavirus fears when in reality, that condemnation is probably better directed at the federal government, which has created incredible amounts of confusion and distrust in the virus and life-saving guidelines, leaving it up to the individual to navigate the pandemic as best they can.

Even so, with the ability to influence millions of people during a public health crisis, it would be real neat if influencers and celebs could use their giant platforms for good instead of as a receptacle to brandish their wealth and maskless (but CDC-approved!) ragers.

That said, the days of flaunting your negative test results so you can post photos from a party you attended may soon be behind us as COVID-19 vaccines begin to roll out across the country. Unfortunately, the influencers might start singing a different disclaimer.

Once it was reported the NHL had an interest in making a private purchase of the vaccine, a sense of dread seemed to wash over the general populace. There haven’t been many additional reports concerning private purchases of the vaccine, and healthcare and nursing home workers are still expected to be the first to receive it along with those most at-risk in the U.S. Still, having seen particular groups of people access rapid tests and high-end medical care with such ease throughout the pandemic, it’s easy to envision a future in which celebrities, athletes, influencers and the affluent may be able to reap the benefits of immunity while the rest of us are still holed up at home, idly scrolling through snapshots and videos of lives that have already returned to normalcy — if they ever left it at all.

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