I’m so old, I remember March, when American politicians finally decided that the coronavirus was a real problem and also decided that New Yorkers were vectors of infection. Spreaders. We were no longer fascinating cosmopolitans; we were undesirables. For the first time in my life, I found myself a pariah for my New Yorkerness. We weren’t welcome. We were told to stay where we were. They didn’t want us. Our license plates were scarlet letters.
Professional scarf-wearer Dr. Deborah Brix went on Fox Business and announced that New Yorkers fleeing the city “might have already been exposed.” Donald Trump publicly flirted with an executive order keeping New Yorkers in (with what army, asked Andrew Cuomo): “We are very strong on people not leaving, especially certain states, and going to other states where they have less of a problem. You are hearing constantly about people leaving New York and going down to Florida, and New York is obviously a hot spot.” He reportedly told his friends to get out, while they still could.
Back to Florida. Don’t get me started on the worst governor, horrible dayglo baby Trump Ron DeSantis, who said “I would reckon, given the outbreak there, that every single flight has somebody on it who is positive for COVID-19” and put state troopers there to collect our papers on arrival. Even Democrats treated us like lepers, like when Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo dispatched state police to the rest stop closest to the Connecticut border, after a couple of miles of signs ordering New York vehicles to pull over. She said that “right now we have a pinpointed risk. That risk is called New York City.” Gov. Raimondo knew the risk and the risk was us.
Along with each of those real threats there were dozens more imagined threats—the viral text messages, the memes telling me that Trump was going to enact the Stafford Act and that I had 48 to 72 hours to leave the city before the tunnels, the bridges, the roads were locked down. But while some people were terrified by the idea of being locked in the city, I found it kind of comforting. Where else is there, really?
When I pushed my fancy friend who kept sending me the viral text message about where it came from, the friend said she got it from inside the administration. I pushed harder. She said she got it from a friend of the president’s large adult spawns. They report, you decide.
People fled the city in droves, and those of us who stayed were in the American equivalent of Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Cuomo (whom I considered a hero back then because I had Stockholm syndrome; now, I have returned to the sensible realization that he sucks) threatened to sue the governor of Rhode Island. “If they uphold that policy, I’m going to sue,” Cuomo told his brother, who was about to get coronavirus himself. How dare they not want us!
But speaking as someone who grew up in New York City, the child of two people who grew up in New York City, and now the mother of three children growing up in New York City, even I wouldn’t want us. We were the last leper colony, Kalaupapa. I had four friends who lost their dads. My nightly Zoom AA meeting was a revolving door of people getting sick and getting better. All of my doormen got coronavirus. My two best friends’ sisters got it. I didn’t get it, but had the confining luxury of not leaving our apartment.
But oh, what a difference 94 days makes. Our curve is flattening, our numbers are down. On June 13, we had only 694 new cases in the entire state. The field hospital set up by anti-gay bigots is gone. Our hospitals are like normal hospitals. I’m even going to get to go to the dentist in a week! We’re back, baby!
But you know who’s not back? Everyone else. “In Florida, the number of new coronavirus cases has topped 1,000 for all but one of the past seven days.” In the last two days, Florida has had more than 2,000 new cases each day. “Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina all had record numbers of new cases in the past three days, according to a Reuters tally.” It’s possible that some of these spikes are a result of wider testing but this is likely the exception and not the rule.
Turns out Trump’s not a very good virologist. His February prediction was “There’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm—historically, that has been able to kill the virus.” He was, of course, like with so many things, wrong.
Now, it’s our turn but you don’t see Cuomo issuing any executive orders against Florida or Texas, and that’s because we New Yorkers are generous souls, who don’t hold grudges. No, it’s actually because he’s too busy bigfooting our terrible, incompetent mayor, who was out sick Monday but didn’t get a test the day after he took it on himself to “remind all New Yorkers, please, if you have not been tested yet, go get tested. It is fast. It is easy. It is free.”
Luckily for the rest of the country, it’s not like New Yorkers are going to bang their drum from March. So we should all be fine, and by fine, I mean, I just want to get to the dentist before the next lockdown.