Community leaders in Fire Island, New York, are speaking out after photos and videos showing mask-less beachgoers congregating en masse ― as well as one vacationer who claimed to have COVID-19 symptoms but flouted social distancing anyway ― went viral over the July 4th weekend.
Fire Island’s Pines section has been a popular seaside destination for members of New York’s LGBTQ community, along with many out-of-state travelers, since the 1920s. Given that New York City was the initial U.S. epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic, many of the resort town’s nightlife venues and other businesses remain closed, while those that have reopened require the season’s influx of visitors to adhere to strict social distance measures.
On Saturday, however, the photos and videos began circulating on social media that showed hundreds of revelers ignoring COVID-19 regulations and partying together on beaches and by the pools of private homes.
Needless to say, the images drew widespread backlash from many Twitter users.
One reveler in particular emerged as the focal point for much of the controversy. In since-deleted social media posts, Corey Hannon claimed to be recovering from COVID-19 ― all while enjoying the sand and surf of Fire Island with friends.
“Everyone knows I had COVID,” the 27-year-old fitness trainer and former flight attendant proclaimed in a short, since-deleted video that went viral after another user posted it to Twitter. “So go fuck yourself. I hope all of you get fucking COVID.”
P.J. McAteer, the managing director of the Fire Island Pines commercial district, condemned the “troubling images and videos” in a statement to HuffPost and other media outlets Sunday.
“We know masks are uncomfortable and aren’t fun,” McAteer said. “But we also know that being hooked up to a ventilator isn’t comfortable or fun either.”
Hannon, McAteer said, would be banned from Fire Island’s bars and restaurants ― which are operating with 60% of their usual summer staff ― moving forward.
“Never have we been so sickened by the actions of one person,” he added.
Hannon walked back some of his remarks in a nearly eight-minute Facebook video on Sunday, calling himself a victim of “cancel culture” and apologizing for “the misinterpretation that I portrayed on my social media.”
“I am terribly sorry this happened,” he said. “I would never go out there and righteously infect people.”
In a caption accompanying the video, Hannon said that his visit to Fire Island took place 12 days after he began feeling sick. He said he awaits his test results and has not been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The weekend’s events on Fire Island also caught the eye of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who tweeted his disapproval Monday.
By Monday, the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association responded to the controversy by prohibiting beach parties and requiring marks to be worn on the beach when visitors are unable to socially distance.
House parties, they added, would be regulated and monitored moving forward.
“We are distressed by the irresponsible behavior of some residents and visitors,” Jay Pagano, the association’s president said in a statement cited by The Advocate and Gothamist, among other outlets. “We need your help. If you see something, say something.”
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