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Rich and famous stars don’t have to follow the same coronavirus rules that we do

Published Aug 24th, 2020 6:17PM EDT
Coronavirus quarantine
Image: f11photo/Adobe

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  • New York has a pretty strict coronavirus quarantine requirement for out-of-towners who visit from any of 34 restricted states.
  • Because coronavirus infection rates are still above 10% in those areas, those visitors are supposed to quarantine for 14 days when they visit New York to ensure that they don’t have COVID-19.
  • However, an exemption is being made for celebrities visiting NYC in the coming days for the 2020 VMAs.

Some of the biggest stars in the music industry like Arianna Grande and Lady Gaga are descending on New York City ahead of the 2020 VMAs, set to take place on August 30. But unlike the tens of thousands of visitors the city is getting right now from out-of-towners flying in or driving from any of 34 states on a restricted list — based on data showing places where average coronavirus infection rates top 10% — the rich and famous won’t have to abide by NYC’s strict 14-day coronavirus quarantine rule for visitors.

As things stand now, visitors to NYC from those 34 states (including Florida and California) have to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The same goes for New Yorkers, who are supposed to quarantine themselves for that same timespan when they return to the city from a state on that restricted list. Officials there are taking the issue so seriously that New York Gov Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order stipulating that anyone found in violation of the quarantine rule could be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 or as many as 15 days in jail. So what about the VMA-related exemption?

Regarding the event, for which artists will perform in a variety of outdoor settings with either a small audience or none at all this coming Sunday, a City Hall spokesman said NYC police officers will be doing “compliance checks during the production.” That’s to make sure that everyone, including artists, is wearing masks and following social-distancing rules. “The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and Citywide Events is working in close coordination with the production to ensure guidelines are being followed,” the spokesman said.

Anyone arriving in NYC who’ll be staying for longer than 24 hours is supposed to quarantine themselves for 14 days to ensure they don’t have the COVID-19 virus. If the celebrities are planning to stay in NYC longer than the one-day VMA event, they would apparently fall under the quarantine rule at that point.

This kind of semi-exemption, though, has produced consternation in other settings, leaving members of the public to feel like there’s some inherent unfairness in the rules meant to fight the pandemic. Do celebrities not get sick? Are the rich and famous immune from infection — and from passing the virus along to others? Because the UK enacted a similar exemption recently, too, involving an allowance for movie stars like Tom Cruise to be able to sidestep the UK’s own 14-day quarantine rule if someone like you or I visited.

NYC officials have stressed that they are aware the quarantine rule won’t catch everyone, comparing it to something like a speed limit. There’s just no way to police every single person who breaks such a rule. Kanye West proved why this is the case in recent days, when New York media reported that he flew in to New Jersey, then drove from there into Manhattan and visited an art gallery in Chelsea. Later that same day, he caught a departing flight.

The 24-hour exemption to NYC’s quarantine rule is only meant for people stopping on layovers or at rest stops, not for someone who’s just passing through the city and wants to sightsee.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.