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“You’re nothing more than a plague rat,” social media users take on gay NYE parties

COVID isn’t causing businesses to suffer, it’s the actions of people. We are tired of it.

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Gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker and an unidentified male friend earlier this year via Sanker’s Instagram

PUERTO VALLARTA – The disgust, anger, and recriminations over gay New Year’s Eve parties in this seaside resort area of the Mexican state of Jalisco and neighboring Riviera Nayarit, continues to spread in gay online social media- particularly in numerous Twitter threads and on Instagram. One Instagram account, @gaysovercovid has repeatedly called out party goers and party organizers.

Local media outlets in Jalisco and many Mexican social media users are also outraged.

The @gaysovercovid Instagram account has faced a wave after wave of backlash from gay influencers many of who are now embroiled in the controversy after having their Instagram posts publicly disclosed and then shamed by the anonymous account holder. There have been financial rewards offered to anyone who can unmask the account owner’s identity.

The account used the built-in abilities for tracking the influencers’ Facebook locations and Venmo transactions in an effort to uncover where they were attending parties. That brought about severe condemnation from those exposed while many other people celebrated that the account exposed the bad behavior of gay men.

In one example, in response to a social media post that depicted a West Hollywood area ICU registered nurse as a participant, social media users tracked the pictures to an Instagram account (@legstrong) listed for 25 year old Armstrong Nworka. The Blade determined from online searches Tuesday, including Facebook using the handle ‘@legstrong’ and his surname, Nworka had profiled himself as gay, an RN, and employed at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills.

Instagram post showing (@legstrong) via @gaysovercoid Instagram

One of the comments [left on his page] read; “Disgusting, you give us gay people a bad name. You’re truly nothing more than a plague rat.” Nworka has since taken his Instagram account private. Nworka did not respond to a Blade request for comment.

The Blade also reached out to Cedars-Sinai and was told that there would be no comment on personnel matters.

The ‘plague rat’ comment was mild in comparison to the thousands of other vitriolic responses to other party attendees and especially organizers- labeled by critics as ‘super-spreaders,’ who openly defied both U.S. and Mexican Public Health authorities mandates and restrictions to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Palm Springs resident and gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker held the largest New Year’s Eve weekend bash, which included several events. Originally set to take place in Puerto Vallarta, apparently ignoring the pleas from local health authorities, elected officials as well as residents, Sanker’s White Parity Entertainment company was forced to move the event to neighboring Riviera Nayarit after the Jalisco state government banned mass gatherings and implemented more restrictive coronavirus measures.

In a text to ticket holders, Sanker’s company told attendees to not reveal the location of the party.  Nor could they take any photos or videos of the event.  The text said the steps were necessary because they “do not want this getting out and causing any issues with the public.”

That text was screenshot and then posted by @gaysovercovid as well as other accounts which prompted one local news outlet in Puerto Vallarta, the Puerto Vallarta News, to editorialize on its social media accounts prior to the events;

“If you are interested in still visiting the COVID Superspreader New Years Eve Celebration where foreigners come to our community and throw big parties and leave COVID while causing our businesses to close and people lose their jobs- […] COVID isn’t causing businesses to suffer, it’s the actions of people. We are tired of it. We have supported this event in past years and given it positive coverage, but this year it’s irresponsible and should be canceled.​”​

In a phone call with an editor at PVN on Tuesday, the Blade was told that the area’s main healthcare facility, Puerto Vallarta Hospital was at 100% occupancy with COVID-19 patients – and that the state of Jalisco had reached 65% positivity rate.

Officials in Jalisco uniformly condemned the fact that so many had traveled from the United States just to party without seeming to care about the consequences to the local residents, many of who are employed as staff in the restaurants, bars, hotels and transportation systems.

“They came to have sex- to dance it seems and to make party without regard to spread of COVID,” one government source told the Blade. “They have no sense of responsibility- don’t care about peoples here,” he added.

As part of the weekend long event​ the PV Delice, a catamaran boat that featured a live band and open bar, began taking on water and sank off the coast of Puerto Vallarta on December 31, 2020 around 5 p.m. while crew frantically called for help to rescue passengers.  Video posted on Instagram, Tik-Tok and Facebook documented at least 10 other boats rushing to aid the sinking vessel and plucking 60 victims out of the choppy water. 

Witnesses to the sinking told local news outlets that the boat was filled with White Party celebrants and was overcrowded. The boat sank to the bottom of the bay and there were no reports of injuries.

Screenshot from @gaysovercoid Instagram

One passenger, a gay man from Chicago, Illinois, Emilio Blanco told the local LGBTQ news outlet, Out and About PV, “It was like the Titanic, it went all down slowly. I think the crew just didn’t know how to maneuver the catamaran very well, the sea was not very rough nor was it too windy. We were about to sail back to Puerto Vallarta, but the catamaran barely moved. I saw at least 10 small boats coming to help, I jumped in a private boat whose owners were graceful enough to send their captain help out. It was quite a scary situation.”

A spokesperson for Adrián Bobadilla García, head of the municipal agency, of Puerto Vallarta told the Blade Tuesday that the municipal government had made numerous notifications to the public regarding mandatory use of masks and maintaining social distance in public. He said that the boardwalk during the holiday however, wasn’t closed nor were the beaches. He conceded that enforcement was not as stringent as it should have been.

A majority of gay parties attendees reportedly stayed in Puerto Vallarta.  As a result, beaches were jammed wall to wall mostly with maskless celebrants.  One local resident who provided pictures and video to NBC Palm Springs said it was a “superspreader nightmare.”

Beaches of of Puerto Vallarta Saturday. (Screenshot via NBC Palm Springs)

“It is with sadness and anger that we have Americans at the height of a pandemic surge travel to Mexico to participate in New Year’s Eve parties knowing that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19,” said City of Huntington Park, California Councilman Eddie Martinez who also heads the  Latino Equality Alliance.

“The action of these travelers has now put hotel workers, servers, janitors, and drivers at risk for the disease as well as to possibly put an additional strain on the hospital system in both Mexico and the United States. Party promoters and sponsors need to be held accountable if their actions result in more deaths for families, especially within the LGBTQ community,” Martinez added.

Washington D. C. based journalist Zack Ford documented a majority of Twitter responses to the controversy in a thread he published Sunday. (Link)

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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

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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

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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”

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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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