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 wave after wave of backlash from gay influencers many of whom 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 others celebrated that the account exposed the bad behavior of gay men.
In one example, in response to a social media post that depicted a Cedars-Sinai 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.
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 mandates and restrictions to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
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 Party 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 not to 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 for local residents, many of whom 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 that featured a live band and open bar, began taking on water and sank off the coast of Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 31, around 5 p.m. while crew members 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 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.
One passenger, a gay man from Chicago, 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 party attendees reportedly stayed in Puerto Vallarta. As a result, beaches were jammed mostly with maskless celebrants. One local resident who provided pictures and video to NBC Palm Springs said it was a “superspreader nightmare.”
“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, Calif. 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.