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New Year’s gay parties planned to rage on during pandemic

Commenting is now turned off for the official @whitepartypalmsprings Instagram page



PUERTO VALLARTA – It certainly isn’t unusual for LGBTQ people to head out to an exotic locale to celebrate a holiday vacation. Top tourist destination in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta, sees a steady stream of sunbathers throughout the year, and it has for years been a bastion of a playground for gay men especially. With the pandemic closing off other travel options, the beachside resort city has been one of the few places available that allow visitors to cut loose.

As California experiences back to back surges that has seen the availability of ICU bed space drop to 0.0% in Southern California and healthcare workers overwhelmed by crushing number of coronavirus patients and rising death tally, the activities of some have divided social media to the point that public-shaming Instagram accounts have taken off, particularly one with the handle @gaysovercovid.

You needn’t look further than that Instagram feed to keep track of where the hottest available clubs and promoters are holding court. The comments are chock full of “COVIDIOTS!” and, “So many selfish people.” Other popular call outs include; “You are the reason I haven’t had a weekend off since March.” or “You are the reason thousands are dying a day.”

Sometimes, the users depicted in the posts will jump on to defend or mock their deriders, highlighting a community schism in how to appropriately handle a virus. For many, the dark cloud of small business closures means arguing for the reopening of establishments like LA stalwarts The Abbey, Micky’s and Akbar. For others, the tagline “stay home, stay safe” is the ultimate mantra. 

To even further boast about seems incomprehensible yet one group is leading the charge for a big send-off to 2020, using the recently locked-down Puerto Vallarta as a staging area. While various circuit parties and rages have persisted in recent months, none has matched the attention that was garnered by the White Party organization’s big New Years Eve bash.

The Eventbrite sponsor’s page reads, “Ring in the New Year at White Party Puerto Vallarta- UNITY where restaurants, gyms, bars and clubs are open and ready to welcome you to the ultimate New Years weekend getaway!!! What better way to be ringing in 2021 than dancing on the beach watching the magical sunset of Puerto Vallarta!!! Dance the night away under the beautiful starry skies with the most spectacular Fireworks show in PV at this years WPPV Main Event!!!!”

The only problem, of course, is that the “restaurants, gyms, bars and clubs” are not actually that open- at least not as a few days ago. According to the website, the following mandates have been issued, effective until Jan. 10: “Suspension of activities of bars and clubs in Puerto Vallarta at 19:00 hours; The use of fireworks in the destination is prohibited as part of New Year’s celebrations; New Year’s parties and events will be suspended.” Other places are limited to a 50 percent capacity limit. 

Puerto Vallarta, however, has not had the restrictions enforced with the same levels of which cities like Los Angeles and New York have.

At least one event on the White Party listing starts at 9 p.m., past the 19:00 deadline, and all of the activities would seem to be in violation of the suspension on New Year parties.

Puerto Vallarta’s Industry club, owned by the founder of White Party Palm Springs, Jeffrey Stanker, initially issued a statement indicating that the events would be canceled and refunds would be available.

Less than two days later, however, he announced via the Instagram page, @industrynightclubpv, that the event was, “Still happening. Location change.” Stanker’s club has continued to host events throughout the year, drawing a litany of negative comments online, like “WTF? We’re in a pandemic” and “Damn, how many people did you guys give COVID to?”

Commenting is now turned off for the official @whitepartypalmsprings Instagram page.

The organization notes that they are taking precautions for their New Year’s festivities on their event page, “Event Health and Safety Guidelines: Limited Event Capacity; Temperature Checks; Mandatory Masks required for entry to all venues; ALL State Health Guidelines strictly enforced for ALL guests.” Masks, it should be noted, are not being used in the promotional photos.

DJ Ben Bakson, presumably performing at some of the weekend events, posted to his story that “The team is prepared for any circumstances and has high quality alternatives ready closely [Puerto Vallarta] in order to comply with the local laws. Spacious outdoor venues with fresh air to ensure the best possible protection. So stay calm and trust that the [organizers] are highly professional and work hard right now to make our new year unforgettable. You don’t need to worry about that. This carefree package is included in your ticket price. So stay calm. Get your asses to PV. And I can’t wait to see you all next week!”

@gaysovercovid has highlighted pushback from users over the public shaming, with some arguing that they have antibodies or are going with a quarantine pod, so they feel they are being as safe as possible. Regardless, little is known of what actual precautions will be enforced for events like this throughout the holidays.

The area surrounding Puerto Vallarta, meanwhile, just hit 100 percent capacity at their local hospitals with a startling COVID-19 positivity rate of 65 percent.

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L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels



Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”



President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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