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Now, officials and some journalists are urging those who are left to do the "right thing" and stay put.
Author Amy Klein, who lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter, writes about how she's tired of being lectured to remain in New York City, while wealthier residents got a pass to get out.
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Many influencers and people with second homes have fled New York City in recent weeks, potentially hastening the spread of the coronavirus to places like the Hamptons and the Catskills. Now, the less wealthy, like me, are being admonished on Facebook and in magazine editorials to take the higher ground,"Stay home!" and "Don't be selfish and go outside!"
All I know is that I'm stuck inside a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, with my husband, 4-year-old daughter and no outdoor space. I know I'm luckier than many – I have a roof over my head, my husband has a salary (though cut to half-time), we have a car, enough food to eat, and the three of us are healthy.
But if I had it my way, I would still get out of New York City.
I know I'm supposed to stay put, but if I could afford to escape New York City, I would
In early March, when the coronavirus first took hold of my city, I thought about getting out of here. I thought of heading to my husband's home country of Israel. But he'd rather be anywhere else than quarantining with certain members of his family. He also thought the logistics of getting there were too difficult, and that it would be hard on our daughter to be out of our house.
I thought of heading to Los Angeles, where I used to live. At least the homes there are spacious and infection rates are lower than in New York City. When I lived in California more than a decade ago, I remember feeling isolated in my car, stuck in traffic, on my way to meetings, to friends. It was that feeling that made me leave L.A. after eight years and return to my hometown of New York, where most of my family lived and where I met my husband and had our daughter.
But now, even with all the beaches and hiking trails closed, I think the West Coast would be a better place to be than the Big Apple.
Not that it matters. We can't get to Israel or California anymore, and we can't afford to rent another house while we're still paying rent on our current apartment. (We often fund our vacations by subletting our place, but no one is going to come to New York City right now.)
And now it seems like it's too late.
A friend in the Poconos is being evicted by a VRBO property manager by local edict. Florida and other states are telling us to stay put. And so are people who already left.
"It's too late to go anywhere now, you'll just be spreading your disease," I see women write on Upper East Side and Upper West Side Facebook groups — no doubt as their kids take in the hearty, healthy country air in the background.
Unlike other diehard New Yorkers, I don't feel obliged to stick around
Yes, I want to stay safe and healthy. No, I do not want to infect anyone else. But unlike others, who are posting videos of community clapping and salutes to our courageous healthcare workers, I have no particular loyalty to my hometown.
"I'm always enraged by the assumption that I would leave my city—the only place I've ever lived—in her hour of need. I am not leaving New York," writer Molly Jong-Fast (daughter of famed New Yorkers Erica Jong and Jonathan Fast) wrote in an homage to the Big Apple in a Vogue essay entitled "Why I am Not Leaving New York."
She calls herself "a violinist on the Titanic, playing away to keep myself from being afraid."
But still, she is not sorry she hasn't left. I am.
Crystal Cox/Business Insider
I don't want to be the canary in the coal mine. I don't want to sacrifice myself and my family for the good of everyone else. I don't want to raise my New York City flag high in the germy air just so everyone else can breathe easier. Call me selfish, but I'm no worse than the people who already left, albeit not as privileged.
All I want to do is drive my uninfected family and my groceries (without getting out of the car) to a place we can run around, breathe easier, and ride out the storm.
I don't know if we'll actually get out of here. I don't know if finances will allow it, if travel regulations will let us, or if one of the few friends offering me their family homes in another state will actually come through.
What I know is that New York is one of the first of many states that will suffer from the coronavirus. Hopefully, others will fare better – and I wish I were there. As much as I love this city, I'm not willing to go down with New York, but I may not have a choice.
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