- California has seen a resurgence of coronavirus cases in recent days, hitting a new peak for its largest single-day tally of new infections on Monday.
- But many influencers and celebrities living in the state are posting content on social media that makes it appear as if life has returned to normal.
- Influencers like MTV star Tana Mongeau, music artist Jason Derulo, and TikTok creator Addison Rae have been throwing or attending parties, posting videos in groups without masks, and rarely filming themselves taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
- “This is a time for people who do have followers who are influential to use that influence to save lives,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles’ public health director.
- Subscribe to Business Insider’s influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.
Los Angeles is bracing for a potentially devastating wave of coronavirus cases as COVID-19 transmissions and hospitalizations both spiked this week.
But on social media, many influencers seem to be living in their own reality.
“Quarantine is over miss mama,” beauty influencer Jeffree Star said to his 15 million followers on Instagram last week. And he’s not alone in sharing that sentiment.
Influencer and MTV star Tana Mongeau, who has 5 million followers on YouTube and Instagram, threw a 2-day birthday bash at a Beverly Hills mansion last week and documented the event on Instagram.
Noah Cyrus was at the party, along with influencers Charly Jordan (3 million Instagram followers), Ashly Schwan (460,000 followers), Cole Carrigan (353,000 followers), Imari Stuart (275,ooo followers), Hunter Moreno (165,000 followers), and others.
None of the guests were seen wearing masks on Mongeau’s Instagram Stories, but they were gifted custom shirts with Mongeau’s name on them and filmed themselves sipping Don Julio 1942 tequila. (Mongeau’s management firm did not respond to Business Insider’s repeated requests for comment.)
Social-distancing measures like wearing masks and staying six feet apart are still recommended in most states in the US including California, and health officials are now requiring CA residents to wear masks in public.
As popular stars like Mongeau have partied without masks or social distancing, the number of coronavirus cases in the US, and especially in California where many influencers reside, has continued to spike. The state of California broke a record on Monday for its highest-day number of new COVID-19 cases. And LA health officials said on Monday that the number of city residents currently infected or infectious to others was approximately 1 in 140, up from last week’s estimate of 1 in 400.
“We are seeing an increase in transmission,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, LA County’s director of health services, said on Monday. “We’re seeing more people get sick and go into the hospital. This is very much a change in the trajectory of the epidemic over the past several days. It’s a change for the worse and a cause for concern.”
Coronavirus cases are spiking and the influencers living in hot spots seem to be ignoring reality
Influencers who continue to hang out with non-household members or in large groups without masks could be sending a mixed message about whether they are taking the public health crisis seriously.
Music artist Jason Derulo, who has over 25 million followers on TikTok, has been appearing in group videos with other TikTok stars throughout June. Derulo recently uploaded a video of himself dancing on a staircase with 10 other influencers without masks. (Derulo’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.)
Khloé Kardashian hosted a birthday party this week and while she posted a photo on Instagram of custom masks emblazoned with her face made for the occasion, none of the pictures she posted after showed any guests actually wearing them (though the gathering appeared to include mostly family members and was held outside).
The director of A&R at Capitol Records, Carter Gregory, hosted a birthday party over the weekend in Los Angeles. On Instagram, celebrities and influencers like TikTok star Addison Rae (21 million followers on Instagram), musician Madison Beer, along with Netflix’s “Too Hot to Handle” star Harry Jowsey, were seen in photos of the party on Instagram without masks and in close proximity to other guests. Others in attendance included Nikita Dragun (7 million followers), Anastasia Karanikolaou (8 million followers), Lauren Wood (1 million followers), musician Diplo, and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr.
The photo-editing app PicsArt sponsored the event.
“PicsArt chose to sponsor Carter’s ‘Birthgay’ event in support of Pride, and specifically Black Pride,” a spokesperson for the company told Business Insider. “Of course, safety matters most so we confirmed beforehand that proper distancing and masks would be enforced per state guidelines. To our understanding, this event was limited to a small group of close friends, and entry was not permitted to anyone not wearing a mask. After seeing the photos surface, it’s unfortunate that it seems social distancing wasn’t followed given the positive intent of the event.”
Capitol Records did not respond to a request for comment.
Clothing retailer Boohoo also received backlash after sponsoring a party in May for the Beverly Hills-based TikTok group, Clubhouse. The influencer group also traveled to Tulum, Mexico this month, where they documented themselves hanging out on the beach and attending a dance club — no masks in sight.
“The more people you’re around who aren’t in your household, the more likely you are to come into contact with someone who is asymptomatic but infected,” LA public health director Barbara Ferrer said on Monday. “Always wear a face covering and keep physical distancing.”
‘A challenging issue’: Marketers are trying to keep up with varying guidelines across the country
Almost all states have some form of face covering guidelines, some more lenient than others.
Influencer-marketing agencies that connect creators and brands for business opportunities want influencers to follow state guidelines when participating in a paid campaign.
“We’re reviewing our policies and in discussions with influencers about the best ways to stay safe during sponsorship shoots, but with ordinances varying so much across different areas of the country this is a challenging issue,” said Evan Asano, CEO of Mediakix.
In a new law, residents of California must wear some type of face coverings in public, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“For our partnerships, BEN contractually requires that all influencers comply with federal, state, and local regulations — including all restrictions and rules surrounding COVID-19,” said Ricky Ray Butler, the CEO of the influencer marketing agency BEN. “If we see a video or content concept that makes us uncomfortable — whether it includes large gatherings, travel, or a lack of social distancing and masks — we advise the influencer, in consultation with the brand, to make the appropriate revisions. We’re continuing to monitor the situation and counsel our partners as regulations evolve.”
The pandemic is not over
Influencers aren’t the only LA residents who appear to be ignoring public health guidelines in recent weeks.
On Monday, the city reported a jump in the number of its residents who said they had recently come in “close contact” with a person they didn’t live with, based on survey data collected by the University of Southern California.
“I know that we all want to go back to normal, but we are nowhere near that normal,” Ghaly said. “If you can stay home, people should. People should minimize interactions with others outside of their households.”
Some influencers are addressing the new public apathy toward following health precautions head on.
Doctor Mikhail (Mike) Varshavski, who is a board-certified primary care physician and popular YouTube influencer with 5 million subscribers, posted a video to YouTube on the latest coronavirus spike this month.
“Unfortunately, it seems like over the last few weeks we’ve become victims to ‘Caution Fatigue’ and reverted back to the behavior that caused our new cases to spike in the first place,” Varshavski wrote in the video description, and he expressed why it’s important to still wear a mask and stay six feet apart from someone.
“The pandemic is not over just because you’re over it,” influencer and activist Tyler Oakley, who has 5 million followers on Instagram, said last week.
Over the last few months, Oakley has been posting content like at-home work outs and information on the coronavirus with his followers, encouraging his fan base to continue to follow social-distancing recommendations.
“If you’re an influencer or have the ability to influence people in any space whether you’re a celebrity or on the internet — whatever your sphere of influence — please take that responsibility seriously,” Ghaly said. “Please use that as a chance to be a role model.”
“This is a time for people who do have followers who are influential to use that influence to save lives,” Ferrer added.