The Coronavirus pandemic is a problem without a guidebook. In lieu of any real answers, the public have turned to their own personal coping mechanisms to weather the storm. For many, that’s involved following guidance from those in the medical field, many of whom have become social media stars for their important role during this crisis. However, in recent weeks, two popular online voices—Laurel Bristow of @kinggutterbaby and Dr. Mike Varshavski—have both participated in risky activities they repeatedly warned the public against, causing their followers to feel “disappointed” and “gaslit.” 

Varshavski, who has four million followers on Instagram, holds People’s title of “Sexiest Doctor Alive” and has appeared on places like Fox Business to emphasize the importance of wearing masks. However, The Daily Mail obtained photos of the New York-based doctor throwing a birthday party for himself on a boat in Miami. In the pictures, Varshavski is surrounded by unmasked guests, and he himself is not wearing a mask.

Varshavski later posted an apology video to his YouTube channel. 

Bristow, an infectious disease researcher at Emory University, similarly earned backlash from her followers when she revealed earlier this week that she was headed home for Thanksgiving. Prior to the announcement, Bristow had strongly echoed the CDC’s guidelines to not travel or gather with family this holiday. She then revealed on her Instagram Story that she had stayed silent about her own travel plans so she could surprise her mother. 

“It's not that going home is necessarily such a risky choice, it's that she publicly shamed people for doing it and then went and did it herself and claims it's all good,” one follower wrote on Reddit. “If she had said weeks ago...that her mental health was suffering and she just needed her family and they were doing everything they could to be safe, I would have had NO problem with her going home. But she spent the last few weeks telling people that skipping Thanksgiving was the responsible choice and it was a mistake not to do it. It's a majorly hypocritical move.”

“I’m generally not a fan of cancel culture but this is the kind of thing you should be cancelled for,” another follower wrote. “She’s literally been sanctimoniously preaching for others to do the opposite of what she did herself in a ‘tehe ain’t it cute’ fashion. This is a bad look for her, and if I were her employer, I would not want her to continue using her platform in this way.”

Bristow pre-empted accusations of hypocrisy by explaining that she does not believe in totally abstinent approaches to anything, and that she had previously shared ways to mitigate risk during the holidays. 

Normally, there’s not much value in being a COVID scold. With a problem as significant as this one, placing blame on any one individual is a waste of energy. But it’s undeniably maddening to have the one person who provided some comfort and sanity suddenly pull the rug out from under you—as if influencers didn’t have enough of a bad track record with this stuff already.

Neither Bristow or Varshavski immediately responded to requests for comment.