Over the weekend, Donald Trump suggested that the tristate area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut could be placed under quarantine before taking a milder route and asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an advisory for the area to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel” for the next two weeks. For New York City’s wealthy part-time residents with the means to flee, that could leave a question open: Even if the federal government hasn’t formally imposed an unenforceable travel ban that prevents you from leaving the city, should you?
To read the comments on a Saturday Instagram post from influencer Naomi Davis, the wisdom of the crowd is a resounding no. Davis, who posts under the nickname Taza, said she, her husband, and their five kids had packed up their RV on Friday to head west, writing, “Hopefully a little change of apartment scenery will be just what we need.”
“I’m so scared that this decision will influence your followers to do the same,” one commenter wrote.
The impulse to broadcast one’s distance from the fray has crossed multiple strata of the moneyed, from those rich enough to leave their family-sized city homes behind to those who can wait out the pandemic in ocean isolation. While one enduring image of the pandemic will be the health care workers doing their best with a dangerous shortage of supplies, another may be David Geffen recording his contentment aboard his yacht on Saturday. “Sunset last night,” he wrote on Instagram. “Isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus. I’m hoping everybody is staying safe.” (Maybe the tides are changing ever so slightly: Geffen went private after the inevitable blowback, and he now appears to have deactivated or deleted his account.)
By this stage of the pandemic, it’s a familiar discussion. Reports have surfaced from the Catskills, Hamptons, and Nantucket about the brewing backlash to the New York vacation set departing the American crisis’s epicenter. Meanwhile, back at home, a surreal scene continues to unfold as tents are built in Central Park to house COVID-19 patients. And as the New York Post reported over the weekend, two of Mount Sinai Hospital’s top executives, Kenneth Davis and Arthur Klein, are managing the health care network from Florida vacation homes. “As a front line healthcare worker who has rearranged my family for their safety,” the doctor Dara Kass tweeted on Sunday morning, “I think @MountSinaiNYC should have to answer why their leadership has retreated to #Miami rather than stand in solidarity with their employees in #NYC during #COVID19.” (Davis, who told the Post that he had been in Florida “before this started,” said his doctor told him not to return to New York because of his age.)
If New York City serves as a preview of what could happen across the country as the virus spreads, it might be in this regard too. On Friday, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced that all cars with New York plates would be stopped on their way into the state, before expanding the order to all states. USA Today reported on Saturday that four affluent skiing-friendly counties lead the nation in per capita rates of confirmed coronavirus cases, outside of New York and Louisiana. Geffen may have deleted his account, but not before spreading awareness.
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