Influencers: please stop wasting COVID tests

Kim, there’s people that are dying

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McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian

By Ana Pietrewicz, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

“All my guests were tested.”

This caption on an Instagram story post by makeup artist and noted blackfisher Nikita Dragun echoes the now-familiar tagline repeated by celebrities over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dragun is one of thousands of “influencers” who feel COVID-19 restrictions do not apply to them while Los Angeles County hospitals turn away ambulances and bodies are stored in refrigerated trucks.

In March, it appeared some celebrities were putting up a brave front in the face of the newly-imposed quarantine reality, including singer Sam Smith, who posted a series of photos of their “quarantine meltdown” from the steps of their just-purchased, roughly $16.4 million mansion. And we all remember the wildly out of touch cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” posted by Gal Gadot in the early days of lockdown. But despite the front, it quickly became clear that the uber-rich were free to shirk the government’s guidelines, most notably L.A. influencers.

Kim Kardashian West tweeted on Oct. 27, 2020: “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” The A-lister flew her rather large “closest inner circle” to a private island in Tahiti to celebrate her 40th birthday. At the time, COVID-19 had already killed over 226,000 people in the United States alone.  

Twitter was quick to come for Kardashian West, many users echoing a quote from her sister Kourtney – “Kim, there’s people that are dying.”

Celebrities continue to spout the unlikely defense that their guests are tested regularly as an excuse to hold gatherings and, as Kardashian West wrote, “pretend things [are] normal.” For the rest of us who have work, school and loved ones to think about, things are still far from normal. Dealing with COVID is still very much a reality – this week’s 7-day average of COVID cases in the U.S. is 148,460 per day.

In November, I thought I might have been exposed to COVID, so I called my doctor’s office to see if I could be tested as a precaution. I was told the office was not offering tests to anyone who was not showing symptoms of COVID-19 — a perfectly reasonable policy in my opinion. However, with that memory in mind, it feels like a slap in the face when influencers like Dragun and James Charles post photos of their tests on social media like they’re showing off a new Birkin bag. Tests should be saved for people who really need them, not people who want to vacation in Hawaii during a pandemic.

The reality is, getting tested doesn’t stop you from getting or spreading COVID. If these influencers and their friends are getting tested as religiously as they say – which I seriously doubt they are – it doesn’t even really matter. You can test negative while having COVID — a negative test result might just mean you don’t have enough of the virus in your system at the time of the test to get a positive result. As Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D., says, “A negative COVID-19 test isn’t a free pass to lower your mask and get into crowded situations with individuals who do not live in your household.”

These celebrities also set a bad example for their millions of followers. I can’t count how many Instagram stories I saw over winter break of people flying from Massachusetts to Florida or Puerto Rico for a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to escape the New England winter for a sunny beach somewhere, but I also don’t particularly want to contract and spread a potentially deadly virus so I can get a tan. This is not to say that celebrities are entirely responsible for spreading COVID-19, but unfortunately, social media does influence people’s actions. Seeing countless posts of mask-less gatherings and parties just reinforces the idea that hosting a potential super-spreader event is a cool and normal thing to do.

It’s unlikely that anyone with a blue check next to their name is reading this article, but in case it has found its way to a Kardashian-Jenner: you can go a day without having a party for Instagram pictures. As death tolls top 2.24 million worldwide, please stop wasting tests as an excuse to post mid-grade TikToks with other influencers. And if you’re going to party, at least don’t post about it. It’s embarrassing for you. It’s oddly reminiscent of Marie Antoinette. You may be able to have your cake but at least save some for the rest of us.

Ana Pietrewicz can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @anapietrewicz.