Naomi Davis is a New York City–based parenting blogger and influencer who has been blogging at Love Taza for many years.
Naomi chronicles her life on the Upper West Side with her husband, Josh, and their now-five children to her nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram. She has worked with major brands like Target and Godiva and recently signed a deal for her first book.
However, many fans became enraged after Naomi shared that her family decided to leave New York on Friday.
In an Instagram post over the weekend, Naomi wrote that her "heart is breaking for what is happening in New York where I live and around the world right now."
She said that after spending two weeks quarantined indoors, the family decided to "head west" so their kids could have some outdoor space.
"While we’ve been diligent about self-quarantining and social distancing in New York City, we want to make sure we still stay away from others during our trip (even though no one in our family has had any symptoms, you could always be asymptomatic). For this reason, we decided to rent an RV in order to avoid hotels and people and just eat and sleep in the RV on the way," she wrote, sharing a photo that she said a neighbor took of them before departing.
She concluded: "Hopefully a little change of apartment scenery will be just what we need - for everyone’s physical health, for my headspace which is spiraling lately - and for our kids’ own mental health."
Naomi, Josh, and a representative for the pair did not return a request for comment on their decision.
According to the Instagram post, the family left NYC on Friday. On Saturday, the CDC issued a domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, asking residents of those states to "to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately."
Earlier that week, the White House had said that residents of the New York metro area should "self-quarantine."
After Naomi announced the family's decision, many of her followers raised concerns over the plan. In the comments, several people from outside the US warned that they did not think it was the right answer.
"Absolute wrong thing to do," wrote one person. "We in Europe did the same mistake. And learned the hard way ... you should have stayed Home ... thats the reason this Virus is spreading..."
Another wrote: "I'm really surprised by your decision. Here in France we're locked down since 2 weeks. Traveling is forbidden. You 'll have to do some shopping during your trip and People you' ll meet may be infected. Who knows if one of your children needs to meet a doctor, in these times they might be infected too. The Best decision for me, is staying home, this is the only one decision to protect our children and us."
And despite the family's attempts to be responsible, a public health expert consulted by BuzzFeed News called their plan "highly irresponsible" and "not safe at all."
Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said that people in the New York area need to listen to public health authorities, not make judgment calls individually about what is or isn't safe.
"On its face, if everyone gets to decide what is safe, then we will just have chaos," he said.
Additionally, Gostin said the family's plan to avoid spreading the virus is flawed. The family can not only spread it amongst themselves, he said, but could infect anyone they encounter along the way if they stop for gas or food.
“The only place you can literally separate yourself from society at home," he said.
Dr. Drew Harris a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health, also questioned the family's long term plan.
"We assume the virus will continue to circulate for months so how long do they intend to stay away?" he told BuzzFeed News. "The only safe time to return will be after a vaccine is available, which is a year or more away."
Gostin said the only reason people from New York City should be traveling right now is for health concerns or if they are an essential worker.
"If you're not doing essential travel, then the only ethically responsible thing to do is shelter in place," he said.
However, some people supported the family's decision.
"I think you are totally doing the right thing for your family and NYC," one person wrote. "Less people in the city will allow the virus to slow and disappear."
The debate also spread to Twitter, where there was considerable backlash.
Many were pissed off.
And began to tweet at her directly.
Some people even @-ed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Twitter to alert him to the situation.
Since posting on Instagram announcing the decision, the family has been silent on social media.
Both Gostin and Harris stressed that the public has a responsibility to their fellow man to do everything in their power to contain the virus. Harris noted that the Davis family clearly has the resources to leave town, but not every family does.
"This is no different than when the rich left the cities to the poor folks during the plague," he said. "We need to remember we’re all in this together and promote policies that protect everyone."
UPDATE: Naomi has responded to the backlash on her stories.
In her update, she insisted her family did not interact with people on their road trip and would quarantine after they arrived.
"We are all living in such uncertain times and I'm as scared as anyone else," she said. "I don't know if this explanation helps but I am trying to do my best to take care of my kids and my family."