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Pro-Mask Influencers Caught Partying in Hard-Hit Puerto Vallarta


It’s been a busy day in social media news. Throughout the pandemic, people have been using apps like Twitter and Instagram to bring attention to individuals who are caught disregarding the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines. Photos and videos of large groups where no one seems to be wearing a mask have been going viral as users call out those with little regard for public safety protocol.

A recent boat party off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico attracted some major influencers on social media, including Jake Grez, a nurse who’s been posting pro-mask videos for months. Now, he’s at the center of a public shaming scandal.

A Secret Getaway Off the Coast of Puerto Vallarta

As the coronavirus continues to claim thousands of lives and major cities and countries go back on lockdown, a crowd was gathering off the coast of Mexico to ring in the New Year.

Jeffrey Sanker hosted a party in Puerto Vallarta at a time when local hospitals are running out of ICU capacity. The pandemic continues to rage across the coast of Mexico. The city received just 3,000 doses of the vaccine, not nearly enough to protect local healthcare workers from the spread of the virus.

To limit the number of new infections, Puerto Vallarta restricted attendance of all events to just eight people. However, that didn’t stop Sanker and his crew from throwing a massive party. He ended up moving the party to Los Muertos Pier in the neighboring Riviera Nayarit state, which has less restrictive coronavirus guidelines. Authorities said the event didn’t violate safety protocols, so they couldn’t shut it down, but they agreed to “closely monitor” it.

Sanker reportedly charged attendees up to $150 per ticket for the event. Featuring go-go dancers, DJs, and open bars, the party was free of masks, social distancing, and other safety protocols.

An Anonymous Tip

The party was supposed to be kept a secret. Guests weren’t allowed to take photos or videos, and they were also discouraged from sharing the details of the party online or with friends.

During the event, around 60 people could be seen gathering on a boat, which capsized at 5:00 PM local time. The authorities quickly descended on the scene to help the attendees.

The incident resulted in a now viral video showing the guests swimming to safety. Many users compared it to the sinking of the Titanic.

One of the guests, Jake Grez, is an influencer and ambassador for a major brand of medical apparel. He’s been telling his hundreds of thousands of followers to wear a mask when out in public, but now he’s being accused of hypocrisy. His friend and fellow nurse Sam Cushing got his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine just two days before attending the party.

As one user said on Twitter, “Remember Sam Cushing telling his followers to stay home and save lives, do it for him and his bestie Jake Grez. Smh…hope that trip to Mexico was worth it while the rest of us made do at home.”

It’s not clear how the details of the party became known. It’s possible that someone used the app Venmo to figure out the guest list. 

Hit with Backlash

Everyone attending the event has been criticized online for their apparent disregard for public health. Others are calling out these \nurses for getting early access to the vaccine as they party in Mexico, while other essential workers continue to put their lives at risk.

Sam Cushing recently posted a photo of him receiving the shot on social media, only to wind up on a crowded party boat in Puerto Vallarta. It takes a full 21 days for the vaccine to be effective.

Despite the apparent hypocrisy, some are questioning whether we should use social media to police each other’s actions. Some have suggested that shaming people online may be ineffective when it comes to changing behavior.

As James Grieg writes for Huck Magazine, “I’m not sure that shaming individuals is an effective way of influencing behavior in a public health crisis. I think people are more likely to get defensive and double down.”

It’s a shame that Cushing and Grez chose to attend the event, despite the apparent risks. Those receiving the vaccine should use caution until they have full immunity from the virus.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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