#GaysOverCovid: Maskless Parties Lead to Rift Within LGBTQ Community

A large New Year’s event in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and a cadre of Instagram accounts calling out irresponsible revelers are at the center of the controversy

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Long before the final countdown to the new year, the party was raging in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta, NBC News reports.

"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!!!" read the online invitation for American party promoter Jeffrey Sanker's annual New Year's Eve circuit party, a large all-night dance event for gay men.

Local officials were putting pressure on Sanker as the party neared, according to the Los Angeles Blade. Puerto Vallarta hospitals were at or near 100 percent capacity, and the state of Jalisco, where the resort town is located, was being throttled by Covid-19, with a reported 65 percent positivity rate, according to local news reports.

Instead of canceling, Sanker moved the event to nearby Nuevo Vallarta, just 10 miles north, but in a different state with more relaxed Covid-19 regulations, according to NBC affiliate KMIR of Palm Springs, California, where Sanker began his White Parties nearly 30 years ago.

Ticket holders got messages from Sanker's company, White Party Entertainment, asking them not to post about the party on social media to avoid "causing any issues with the public," according to KMIR and photos shared on social media.

It's no surprise that Sanker — who didn't respond to multiple requests for comment over a period of five days — wanted to keep the event out of the public eye. Americans vacationing and gathering during the pandemic against the advice of public health officials have been the target of fierce criticism and public shaming on social media.

In an email sent to NBC News on Friday, Jack Ketsoyan, a publicist for Sanker, refused to answer any questions.

A cadre of Instagram accounts run by LGBTQ people have recently begun targeting fellow members of the queer community, particularly gay men, accusing them of publicly violating public health directives. Among the most popular is @GaysOverCovid, which as of Friday had over 120,000 followers. Since the summer, the anonymous account has been reposting travel photos that gay men have uploaded to their social media accounts. The account shares the men’s social media handles — often the same as their full names — and places of work. @GaysOverCovid did not respond to direct messages requesting comment.

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