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‘The Media Variant’ Hits New York City

“Everyone who is anyone has covid right now.” Photo: Andy Ryan/Getty Images

Yesterday, I jumped in line at my local City MD, at Lexington and 79th. By the time I got swabbed two hours later, the blue check mafia had worked itself into a full-on Omicron meltdown. What remained of the media-holiday-party industrial complex collapsed in a single afternoon.

It began, as these things often do, in the group chats. Everyone seemed to know someone who’d tested positive that very morning. Suddenly, it all spilled on to Twitter. “we’re calling the wave of COVID currently ravaging Brooklyn ‘The Media Variant,’” tweeted BuzzFeed’s Julia Reinstein. Business Insider’s Jake Swearingen wrote: “you have about 12 hours left to get covid if you want to stay on trend.” The writer Jamie Lauren Keiles: “everyone who is anyone has covid right now.”

Podcast czar Lydia Polgreen tried to de-escalate, tweeting, “I don’t think this means shutting back down. I think it has to mean accepting that getting COVID is just a thing that’s going to happen to all of us, so behave accordingly (and get vaccinated).” But it was too late. In true media fashion, the finger pointing soon began. One person tweeted that he must’ve caught the variant at an LCD Soundsystem show on Thursday and that he was “choosing to blame the awful, coked-out group behind me.” Surely the most inane attempt at an Omicron-shaming came from Bryan Goldberg’s resurrected Gawker, which posted a so-called “blind item” that asked simply: “Which media company’s very large holiday party resulted in a rash of COVID diagnoses?”

Hmmm, maybe all of them? BuzzFeed had a big one on West 26th Street. As Nate Freeman reported in his Vanity Fair column, the Architectural Digest folks partied at Dr. Clark and Larry Gagosian threw a shindig at his mansion on the Upper East Side. This magazine had its holiday party last week, too, just off Union Square.

Media scolds, perhaps buzzing off an afternoon hit of Blue Bottle, were starting to freak everyone out. Jake Tapper tweeted a picture of CNN’s Christmas sweater contest, affixed with this nervous parenthetical: “Everyone is vaccinated and we took masks off for the photos.” An editor hosting a holiday dinner on Saturday messaged me to say “we will probably cancel/reschedule the party once omicron has culled the weak and only the strong remain.” Pete Wells wrote that one of his top ten restaurants of 2021, Contento, in East Harlem, was closing “for a couple of days in an abundance of caution.” Marea closed its doors, too. By the next morning, the New Yorker’s Charles Duhigg would send around an email with this subject line: “CANCELLED: Drinks with Journalists: December 16, Brooklyn.” (Even though it was always meant to take place outdoors.) An afternoon report from the Daily News detailed how a whole bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was in quarantine after a holiday party.

“Don’t Be Surprised When You Get Omicron,” admonished a new headline in the Atlantic. Ok, I thought, I won’t. Shuffling forward a few places in line, I began to tick off the last few days of media partying in my head and wondered if my migraine was more than the usual mid-week hangover. Monday was a movie premiere at MoMA with an after-party at the Polo Bar. Tuesday, the Irish Consulate on Park Avenue. And still to come: Midtown Christmas lunches and magazine parties and whatever else I’d blindly RSVP’d to.

But of course I’ve had to cancel all that. I had COVID, too.

‘The Media Variant’ Hits New York City