health wellness

This 'Virus-Free' Retreat Sounds Like a Pandemic Hot Spot Waiting to Happen

The ill-conceived “Harbor” promises group respite from COVID-19 for as little as $3,000 a month and flies in the face of every known warning about the pandemic.
05 April 2020, 5:33pm
coronavirus, covid-19, jay jideliov, callision, retreat, escape, airbnb, harbor,
Pojcheewin Yaprasert Photography via Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Update: The Harbor retreat was canceled on 4/1. Original article below.

For weeks now, the universal recommendation to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to stay away from other people and shelter in place unless absolutely necessary. Many people are unable to follow that recommendation, as they either have to keep working, don’t have access to stable housing, or some other factor beyond their control. But for everyone else, the rules are clear: Stay home! Don’t see people! Just accept that this sucks, and wait it out!

Apparently, Jay Jideliov didn’t get the memo. In defiance of all recommended social distancing measures, Jideliov, the CEO and founder of New York-based communications company Callision, has decided to open up a luxury retreat called Harbor where as many as 33 guests can spend the next two months practicing yoga, doing breathwork, and partying together, “no masks required.”

The retreat, held at an undisclosed luxury villa in Southern California, is advertised as “virus free,” screening guests for COVID-19 before admittance. Will they keep guests separated for two weeks upon arrival to make sure no asymptomatic carriers end up spreading the virus to everyone else in the relatively closed-off space, just as has happened at nursing homes and prisons? Unclear! Anyway, the shared rooms start at $3,000 a month, according to Boing Boing. Seems like an awful lot of money to spend on putting yourself at risk anew to catch the virus, but whatever, girl! Do you!

Jideliov’s hubristic attempt to capitalize on the crisis, not to mention his wanton disregard for the health of those around him, is just the latest example of how wealthy property owners, and those with the means to play host to others’ jet-setting fantasies, are trying to go about the pandemic as if it’s business as usual. Just last month, Airbnb owners began advertising their rooms as “COVID-19 free” getaways where vacationers could hide away at a “coronavirus-free retreat” with all the toilet paper they could ever need.

These moves contribute to an abiding and deeply incorrect sense that relocating away from populous areas is an equally safe, or even superior move, even as every medical professional and authority in the world has tried to tell everyone to stay put and stop moving around. The wealthy seem to be the most amenable to this flawed logic, fleeing to the second homes in poorer, rural parts of the country more vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Not only is this all fundamentally irresponsible, but this response to the pandemic is reflective of just how out of touch the wealthy are to what else is going on in the world. By dropping thousands of dollars on last-minute getaways, they’re risking the further spread of the virus, not to mention infection themselves. It’s not that they can’t buy their way out of the pandemic. They can, actually! As recent news coverage has shown, the wealthy have been able to secure better access to testing, not to mention the fact that they are better equipped to shelter in place for as long as they need. If they were only paying attention, they would see that stocking up and staying put in their luxury homes-turned-apocalypse bunkers would be the best place for them to stay, if only they lived in the same reality.

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