An Instagram influencer who sparked public fury for jetting off to an exclusive getaway after testing positive for coronavirus has published a tearful message online.
Manhattan designer Arielle Charnas, who has 1.3 million Instagram followers, was criticised for using her personal connections to obtain a Covid-19 test — something most Americans are unable to do because of chronic shortages.
Charnas was offered a test by emergency medicine specialist Dr Jake Deutsch, who operates the Cure Urgent Care centre on New York's Upper West Side, after tagging him in a post in which she described her symptoms.
On March 18, she informed her Instagram followers the test had come back positive.
A week later, the mother-of-two provoked further outrage by taking her family to the Hamptons — playground of the rich and famous — more than 160km away, when she was supposed to be self-isolating.
Now Charnas has attempted to set the record straight with a tearful video and an epic, 1300-word statement explaining her actions and apologising "to anyone that I unintentionally harmed in the course of my decision making".
"I am not writing this to make excuses and I am not searching for validation; I want to share the truth behind the story and above all else, express my sincerest remorse," began the statement, posted to Charnas' fashion blog Something Navy.
Charnas went on to deny breaking quarantine, claiming she rode out the required 14-day confinement period with her husband, their two young daughters and "the nanny" in their apartment before going on the trip to the Hamptons.
But she said she had been hurt by the avalanche of criticism directed at her over the past two weeks in media reports and in the comments of her Instagram posts.
Commenters abused her for using privilege to obtain a Covid-19 test, accused her of lying about the results to get attention and even sent her death threats, she said.
"You've likely read stories about my recent life choices in the media and other social channels over the past few weeks. And I get it," she says.
"I'm in the public eye and I've built my career on letting people into basically every part of my life. I've always had my critics and I've accepted that. It's part of what I do.
"But this month, the critics' voices have been very loud, hurtful and largely misinformed. I've been accused of falsifying my own test results which is unequivocally untrue.
"I've also been receiving death threats against my entire family including my two young daughters. At this point, all I can do from here is tell you how I came to reach the decisions that are very validly being questioned — decisions that were often made behind the curtain of social media — and why I made them in the best interest of my family and my community."
Not everyone was convinced by the sincerity of Charnas's words, with the influencer copping ridicule on social media and speculation she had "ruined her brand".
Fashion reporter Sophie Ross has described the behaviour of Charnas as "bizarre and dangerous", pointing out the influencer paid a visit to her daughter's preschool classroom days before testing positive, despite having shared concerns about her symptoms online.
Others left scathing comments on her website.
"You posting your cute little Instagram COVID19 adventure with your #Volvo #sponsored is beyond TONE DEAF," wrote Melissa.
"You need to seek some professional help for the narcissism you have and the yes people that you surround yourself with."
Natasha said: "LIES LIES LIES!! Ugh you're the worst this is not genuine, you're just trying to salvage your brand and sponsorships. Have you even done a thing to donate or help others? Stop looking for sympathy and just delete your Instagram. No one cares or wants to see you now. People are only looking to see all the drama and offence you've caused."
New York has been the epicentre of coronavirus in the US with more than 1560 deaths. Governor Andrew Cuomo is pleading with other states and the federal government to lend equipment and supplies.