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 visitpuertovallarta.com 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.