This Sunday, Facebook user Stephen James Markley (aka. drag performer Champagne Bubbles) posted an image of gay men closely congregating on a street corner in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan without wearing face masks even though New York City was the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic.
Markley, who is also a nurse, posted the image on Facebook Sunday evening with the caption, “It’s called a mask gays … They ain’t asking you to wear a condom 🤦🏼♂️ Slap in the face to all healthcare workers and defiance of law. Reason why you won’t progress to Phase 2 right here.”
Many commenters on the image expressed disappointment. One commenter, drag performer Heidi Haux, wrote, “It’s insulting to see a generation behave like this when our elders had to survive an epidemic to fight for our rights.”
New York state began phase one of its reopening on Monday after a statewide shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19. While phase one allows businesses to offer curbside and to-go orders, phase one hadn’t officially started on Sunday when Markley took his photo.
Furthermore, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s orders still require businesses to encourage customers to wear personal protective equipment, like facemasks, and to maintain six feet of distance between one other. However, without an enforcement mechanism, citizens can associate freely in public, congregating in front of alcohol-vending businesses en masse even though doing so dramatically increases the risk of possibly transmitting coronavirus.
“My issue is WHY aren’t the business held accountable to enforce these rules even when they don’t have people inside their establishment, but congregating outside?” Markley told LGBTQ Nation.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “It could be as little as two weeks until we get to Phase 2. I want to keep expectations a little lower than that. Think about the beginning of July as a target.” Phase two would involve outdoor dining.
However, some states that have begun reopening, like Texas, have experienced an increase in coronavirus cases. Markley and others share the fear that if people don’t take social distancing and prevention measures seriously, the number of cases could go back up.