I can safely leave NYC. Should I?
March 30, 2020 5:43 AM   Subscribe

I live in New York City and have been at home in a studio apartment with my spouse for just over two weeks (with a handful of trips out for food). We are showing no symptoms of illness aside for the expected stir-craziness. We do have a car and an empty cabin to go to about 100 miles away and enough supplies to self-quarantine upon arrival for at least 18 days. But it's in a rural area that has asked visitors to stay away. We are paralyzed by guilt and indecision; should we go?

On one hand it feels like a no-brainer. We'd have no contact door to door and although the cabin is small, it has actual rooms, and a yard, and internet, and we could continue to work from home there. On the other hand, it feels like a grotesque privilege to go where we've been asked not to go just because we're uncomfortable. Also, if god forbid one of us does get sick, the medical resources are far fewer there. And we both have these weird feelings like abandoning New York is cowardly right now.
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (44 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You’re not special. Stay in place.
posted by Ted Maul at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2020 [137 favorites]

I'd say that if you can go there without contacting anyone in the community, and stay for 18 days without going out (longer than the 2-week quarantine advice), then at that point you're no longer a visitor.
posted by markslack at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

But it's in a rural area that has asked visitors to stay away.

Then do so. Feel how you feel but this is definitive.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2020 [75 favorites]

But it's in a rural area that has asked visitors to stay away.

If you actually own a cabin there, it would seem to me you're more than just a visitor.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:48 AM on March 30, 2020 [20 favorites]

Cottage areas are being overrun with cottagers. Their hospitals don't have the resources to help you if it becomes an issue. Grocery stores aren't equipped for an influx. Stay home.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:52 AM on March 30, 2020 [67 favorites]

Stay home.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

Ownership is irrelevant when vacation towns are dealing with huge offseason surges in population, some of whom get sick. Stay home like you’ve been asked to. There’s no property law exemption. We’re not in court. Stay home. Stir crazy means go for a walk tonight when the streets are empty. Not moving to another city. Stay home.

Signed, a New Yorker with access to a country house, currently stuck in a tiny studio.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:54 AM on March 30, 2020 [82 favorites]

It is a grotesque abuse of privilege to go where you've been asked not to go just because you're uncomfortable.

Going to your cabin has been made illegal for this reason in Norway.

There will already be enough strain on resources in rural areas without you adding to it. Not just healthcare resources, but food supply, electricity, all of it. This is going to last longer than 18 days.
posted by Balthamos at 5:55 AM on March 30, 2020 [42 favorites]

This *is* a no-brainer: stay in New York.
posted by Mauve at 5:57 AM on March 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

Is it going to be much safer there? A bunch of other people are going to be doing the same thing, with fewer precautions, and will bring covid-19 with them to the community. Then you still have to go to the shops to get food and risk infection, in an area with even fewer resources to treat you and a whole lot more people than normal. You may take up a hospital bed that somebody else could have had otherwise. You may take a ventilator that someone else could have had otherwise.

People escaping to "safer" areas are how those areas get screwed. Don't do it.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:58 AM on March 30, 2020 [14 favorites]

You've had a handful of trips out for food -- so no, you have not been self-quarantined, you could absolutely be a carrier and ignoring all the issues about local resources, how would you feel being the one to bring this virus from the current US epicenter of Coronavirus to a small, currently unaffected, rural community?

If living with that is more comfortable to you than being physically comfortable at this time, you have bigger issues to deal with.

The answer to these questions is always stay where you are -- unless staying there is putting your life at risk.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2020 [38 favorites]

And for context - my parents live in a small rural village, with my brother who is at higher risk of complications from covid-19. They can't get food deliveries for weeks at least because of overbooking so they have to go out to the shops for food. The hospital that serves the area seems understaffed at the best of times. I would be spitting mad if a bunch of people fled there from an infected city, using up available resources and increasing the risk to my family.

I live in a city. They invited me home, but I will not be going because of the risk. Staying in place in an epidemic when you're not high risk is the ethical thing to do.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:11 AM on March 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

You already know the answer to your question and you are correct. Stay where you are.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:22 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's not cowardly to want to leave. I'm in New Jersey and I don't want to be here, either. I keep having dreams about driving off. It's human instinct to want to flee in this situation.

But just because it isn't cowardly to want to leave doesn't make it ok. You know the answer. Stay put. And take care; this whole thing is really hard.
posted by k8lin at 6:31 AM on March 30, 2020 [21 favorites]

As a writer, I can assure you that every literary, religious and philosophic tradition indicates that if you go you have ensured that you will develop the disease when you arrive. Karma being karma, human nature being human nature, unconsciously processed fears being unconsciously processed fears...

As a historian, I can assure you that every historical record indicates that if you go, you ensure either bringing the disease with you, or picking it up from other evacuees after you get there.

You are currently debating moving from the area of most-likely-to-pick-up the disease to the area about to become even-more-likely-to-pick-up the disease. The asymptomatic carriers arrived a week ago. You and everyone who leaves New York this way and for this reason right now are considering getting onto a bus driven by a grinning skeleton.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:37 AM on March 30, 2020 [30 favorites]

You have gone out, so you are at some risk. I'm in Maine, and people are uneasy about New Yorkers coming to their 2nd homes. It puts more pressure on the supply chain when you end isolation, and if you become ill, puts pressure on a health care system that is smaller.

Consider if you want to be in your summer cabin, or if being in NYC near friends would actually feel better. Does the cabin need a plumber to restore water? A cable installer visit for cable? Nope, that generates risk.

But you pay taxes, and if you bring supplies and self-quarantine and don't create addiitonal risk, you have a right to be here. What I recommend: buy a lot more supplies, at least a month - flour, yeast, toilet paper, etc., Print a sign for you car and cabin - We are self-isolating for 21 days. We brought lots of supplies. And, most of all, wait a full 2 weeks of self-isolation, to be sure you are not a disease vector. Going out to make the trip means you do have to re-quarantine.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Adding to the chorus of "stay home". I'm in a region where folks have second homes, and while there hasn't been a tree dragged out onto the road, people are definitely getting twitchy up here--the local forest service specifically called out the large number of non-locals who decided it would be a good idea to go for a hike this weekend in some popular, and overcrowded, sites. Places that rely on spring/summer/fall tourism just don't have the resources in place to deal with non-year-round residents right now.
posted by damayanti at 7:12 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Both Martha's Vineyard and Block Island have small permanent populations that surge with summer visitors. Their hospitals have, respectively, three and one ICU beds. They have begged everyone to stay away because they can't handle their own people -- to say nothing of peak populations -- should the virus get a foothold.

Stay in New York.

You can claim a legal right to do this, but should you, morally?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Believe me, as someone with access to a rural cabin, nearly every other seasonal owner is thinking the exact same thing, and many are going to make the wrong choice and go. So what happens after your 18 days of quarantine when you and all the other seasonal owners needs supplies from the one grocery store in town?

Yes NYC hospitals will be overrun, but at least there are hospitals! And grocery stores many have supply chain issues but there are grocery stores!
posted by muddgirl at 7:25 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

Leaving aside the transmission of infection question (which I suspect for most communities not actually fly-ins in the Yukon is near-moot), you will be adding to the strain on resources in a small community not designed for a medium-term surge in population when you have adequate resources here. I don't think that's fair or right.
posted by praemunire at 7:30 AM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm also in Maine, but I have to disagree with my fellow Mainer, theora55, about whether it's advisable for the OP and their spouse to leave NYC for their rural cabin.

OP might say, "Well, it's just the two of us." Every "two of us" can justify their decision with the same rationale. No rural area is any position to absorb another strain on resources. Please stay where you are.
posted by virago at 7:33 AM on March 30, 2020 [19 favorites]

I live in Hong Kong. My apartment, I guarantee you, is smaller than yours. To compare your struggle to mine:

I live on a noisy main road under a flight path in a densely populated, working-class neighbourhood full of very old people, quite a few of whom are poor and live and work in conditions no one should have to tolerate, like collecting garbage to sell for cash. To protect them, I wear a mask whenever I am out of my house (rare these days), don't touch anything in public spaces without a tissue as a barrier, have stopped shopping for anything other than essential food and medicine, switched entirely to contactless payments, and work from home as much as possible (sadly, I can't work from home entirely, which means I am exposed to thousands more people a day than you are just on my 20-minute mass transit commute alone). Close friends are in a 14-day home quarantine and cannot go into the hallway outside their apartment without violating the law. I will probably not see my family in the US until Christmas as they are older and taking a trip home to see them in the summer is a risk I cannot bear taking.

And despite all these precautions, the primary reason we are now seeing a huge spike in cases is that wealthy Hong Kongers freaked out about their children ending up stuck at boarding schools and universities in the US and UK, two societies where public health awareness differs dramatically from Hong Kong - and flew them all home once travel restrictions were announced in mid-March, in order to beat the requirement for a 14-day home quarantine. They also weren't sick; they also promised to stay inside; they also wore masks on the plane. They promised they would stay in hotels, or in their rooms, and definitely would not go out to eat at all, not even once!

They lied. Community transmission is now a near-certainty. This has overwhelmed even our world-class public health system. The particular way the city's well-to-do completely disregarded the risk of transmission by asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 because of course they couldn't possibly have it makes me question whether I'll ever see the world the way they do.

On one hand it feels like a no-brainer.

This line sticks in my craw. Here, I hear something sadly familiar, and frankly uncomfortable to talk about. You need to examine whether you see your fellow New Yorkers as comrades in a common struggle against an invisible killer, or as disease vectors you must insulate your home against, or flee from. (And, somehow, the people near your cabin as pure, clean and definitely at lower risk of Covid-19 transmission.)

But I challenge you to ask yourself what risk you are at compared to the bus driver, the TSA agent, the bodega cashier, the bike messenger. Ask yourself why you don't see yourself as one of the safest people in the city. Ask yourself why removing visual evidence of New York and New Yorkers is something you'd like to do right now. Ask yourself why you wonder how soiled the people outside are, how much you hope they didn't touch your door handles with an unwashed hand or cough on your Instacart bag.

This disease is survivable for all of us if you stay put and protect the communities, plural, you have the freedom to live in - unlike the vast majority of other people - by staying home in New York.
posted by mdonley at 7:38 AM on March 30, 2020 [120 favorites]

to go where we've been asked not to go just because we're uncomfortable

Taking the virus completely out of the picture, the locals have made the extraordinary decision to ask people not to go there. I’m sure that city people with cabins are a significant source of income for the area but they’re willing to sacrifice that. Balancing that against your being uncomfortable, it really seems like staying home is appropriate.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:44 AM on March 30, 2020 [15 favorites]

I would post a ton of stay at home memes if I could here, but I can’t so I’ll just say - people did this in Europe during the plague, and what it did was spread the plague. Stay where you are. I know it sucks, we all know it sucks, everything about this sucks. Plan your dream trip for after this is over, but we all need you to stay at home now. The clock on isolation restarts every time you leave your apartment, and even if it didn’t you could be asymptomatic carriers - you don’t know. Stay home.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:46 AM on March 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

Another New Yorker saying: nope. Stay where you are.

It looks like you posted this under “Religion and philosophy” so maybe you’re more interested in the moral equation than in small practical details but I’ll add a relevant anecdote. I know some people who left NYC for a family house in a rural part of New England pretty early on, before March 5 or so, and completely isolated themselves in the house with enough food for a month. Now it’s been 3 weeks, and they all seem top be free of symptoms, OK—but in a week they’ll need to start going to local stores with their New York plates and are understandably terrified to do so. Even if they’re confident they’re not infecting anyone (a misplaced confidence), how well do you think that explanation will be received in the Price Chopper parking lot next week? Or a month from now? How well would you receive it?
posted by miles per flower at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

If you're ashamed to ask this under your actual name, you know the answer. I'm sorry. Everything is very frightening now and run away is a very normal response to have. But it's the wrong one right now.
posted by jeather at 8:18 AM on March 30, 2020 [26 favorites]

In the unlikely event that nobody above has convinced you to stay in New York, consider the risk of simply driving. Car accidents are astonishingly common. If you happen to get in one (and no matter how perfectly you drive, there’s no guarantee that other drivers are even trying to be careful), one or both of you may need to be in a hospital somewhere along your route. If you are hospitalized, you cannot have visitors due to the virus.

I cannot give you permission to leave the city, and I can tell you that I now question the judgment and generosity of my acquaintances who have departed for their more isolated summer homes. “Oh, he’s so generous. He’d give you the shirt off his back” types of people. Your friends will judge you similarly if you go, as will your neighbors at the cottage. You will forever be remembered as people who fled.

Stay where you are.
posted by bilabial at 8:23 AM on March 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

There was a Twitter post last night from a very tiny (300 people) native community north of the Arctic Circle, saying that two people from Quebec drove and flew until they could take shelter there -- and the community told them to GTFO because are you kidding me.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

I don’t see why you’re “paralyzed by indecision” since the answer to this one is obvious — you said so yourself. And not only that, but the people who live where you’re going asked you to stay away. Stay away. I mean, come on — you know the answer, but you’re looking for permission to do the wrong thing.
posted by holborne at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

we've been asked not to go

Counties without coronavirus are mostly rural, poor (AP)
[...] counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 — the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus — and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick. [...] “They’ll be later to get the infection, they’ll be later to have their epidemics,” said Christine K. Johnson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Davis. “But I don’t think they’re going to be protected because there’s nowhere in the U.S. that’s isolated.”
A plea from rural America: Urban covid-19 refugees, please stay home (David Yamamoto, WaPo Opinion)
Tillamook County is not alone. Reports are emerging from small towns across the country that have been flooded with people seeking a respite from their urban confinement or fleeing covid-19 hot spots. [...] When government authorities tell people to stay home, what prompts them to think they should head to the beach? Is it that urbanites think the lives of people living in their rural playgrounds somehow matter less than their own?
it's in a rural area that has asked visitors you to stay away
posted by katra at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

I literally just emailed a good friend about this very topic. I live in a rural community with a very small hospital. He lives in Canada and has a family member in NYC who wanted to come up here with his two friends and stay at their summer place. This was my response.
Speaking as someone who would be using the same hospital as they would be, I'd be telling them to stay home if the choice were mine.

And I know it's complicated and since you are a friend, I also have to say you should do what feels right and if it's important of course they should come. But realistically, unless they've been tested the chances are, as you know

- they get it
- they may need medical resources that have been scaled for this area
- they have to go out into the community for various reasons and are either shedding and make someone sick or get sick themselves and are away from other friends and family and need help using community resources
- they're buying a second or third week's worth of food at Mac's (local food store) which is scaled to the size of the community and already managing scarcity

It's been challenging, we have had very few positive-tested people in this area so it's still really waiting for the epidemic wave. But most of the first cases in VT were New Yorkers fleeing to summer homes and I think that's gotten everyone a little jumpy.
They asked visitors to stay away. That means you should stay away. Stay where you are. Wash your hands.
posted by jessamyn at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Small towns and rural areas are having the same shut-downs that cities are. Many grocery stores are closed, pharmacies are appointment-open, some gas stations are closed. So not only are stores not running at their tourist-season staffing levels, but staffing levels are lower than they would usually be in this time of year.

I understand why you want to go, and why it's so hard to have that cabin sitting empty in the woods while you're cooped up. But you can't. I'm really sorry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Your title is incorrect. You cannot safely leave NYC.

Please respect the community your cabin is in when they asked you to stay away.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:14 AM on March 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

On one hand it feels like a no-brainer.

I don't understand this statement at all. How is this a no-brainer? You are safe, have sheltered-in-place, have ample supplies, have access to resources, and have been asked not to visit. So, what is the purpose of going to your cabin? You're going to do the same thing you're doing now, just in another place? A place that doesn't want you and doesn't have resources to treat you should you get sick. Staying home seems like the no-brainer.
posted by shoesietart at 10:18 AM on March 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

No, you should not go, for all the reasons people have listed here. I agree that the no-brainer answer (although of course it's not really a no-brainer because fear and anxiety are powerful and understandable) is to stay put. It's okay to be scared and panicky right now, but if your fear is telling you that you are the one special exception to the rule that everyone needs to stay put, because your circumstances are somehow the magical ones that will make it safe for you to do what no one else can do, it is lying to you.
posted by Stacey at 10:42 AM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

I understand you're scared and you're anxious and you feel like doing this is exercising some control, going somewhere 'safer' for you and more comfortable. But consider that the reason this pandemic exists at all, is because someone, somewhere, said 'not me!' and did it anyway.

When they restricted travel from China, and asked people not to travel when sick, someone said, 'well not me, though,' and did it anyway.

When they started locking down parts of the north of Italy, asking people to stay put, many Italians said, 'not me,' and fled south and to other parts of Europe instead of self-isolating.

This has been a million-person-chorus of 'but not me, though.' Yes you. You have to stay put. I have to stay put. Everyone has to fucking stay put.

See the sooner we all stay put for an extended amount of time the sooner we can go back to being selfish shitbags again and not giving a crap about other people-- and doing what we want when we want. Ironic, isn't it?

Also, by 'selfish shitbag' I include me in that statement, haha. I'm not trying to harsh on you for asking a question. I think you're wise to consider the implications of your travel and ask for counsel on it. There's nothing wrong with asking a question about it, and I'm sorry some people are talking to you as if you should be hanged for even thinking about it. It's a normal human reaction to want to escape confines for somewhere more comfortable.

But... there just is no 'safe' place or area to go; rural or isolated places are as exposed as everywhere else, they are just slower to manifest mainly because the virus is probably in incubation in asymptomatic people who fleed at the height of the curve. We are playing catch up all the time, trying to pre-empt it, but at this point in time, all people are doing by moving around is making things much much worse on a global scale.

Maybe. MAYBE you could have stayed in your cabin if you had left in Jan or Feb, and self-isolated upon getting there for two weeks. Or maybe if you have enough food and water for a to quarantine once you get there for at least 2 weeks, maybe 3 for safety and will not see any locals at all, then you could probably go. But as others have said, IF you have it right now and it's in incubation, and you get sick while you are in your rural community, you will not be any more protected than in a big city. In fact, you may be less so, and you run the possibility of exposing people.

So when your holiday community says, "Don't come," say, "Oh hey, that means me," and don't do it-- instead of saying 'Well, not me,' -- and hopefully we'll be closer to beating this thing.
posted by Dimes at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2020 [18 favorites]

It is perfectly acceptable to go if you are sure the best case scenario will occur: You drive directly there, you do not interact with anyone, you do not leave the property, and you need nothing from the community, whether food or services, or health care, whether COVID-related or other.

Since you are human, you cannot be sure of any of that, especially the lack of need for health care. Do not go.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

This isn't exactly your situation, but a social media influencer caught some serious flak for a similar plan. The blowback on the influencer might give some insight about how the decision is perceived by others.
posted by lilac girl at 11:58 AM on March 30, 2020

Some states, like RI, are turning away New Yorkers. With good reason. This is how the virus spreads to less-equipped locations.

Yes, you’re a New Yorker if you live in New York, despite where you may own vacation property.

The clock on self-isolation starts again, for BOTH of you, every time EITHER one of you goes out for food, gets something delivered, goes to the basement or mailroom, etc. Two weeks off work is not the figure you should be looking at. Not currently having symptoms is also a fairly meaningless bit of information, as asymptomatic carriers can spread this thing.

Driving 100 miles means you will probably wind up needing to get gas, you’ll probably stop for coffee, you’ll forget milk or a charger, you may get a flat or get in a wreck, someone could get sick with this or something else.

Yes, the rules apply to you. It sucks for all of us but it’s true. Solidarity from NYC. Let’s stop the spread!
posted by kapers at 3:09 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

People are being exceedingly polite in this thread.

Absolutely do not go.
posted by wpgr at 5:50 PM on March 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

I live in a part of the UK which where's relatively rural, quite beautiful and where there are a lot of holiday homes and second homes. It turns out there are 12 ventilators here for the 500,000 people who live here. Despite my area's reliance on tourism the county has been asking visitors to stay away. It is hugely important that people do not come here when they might be infected, and where they might end up on one of those ventilators when we could at any moment need them urgently.
posted by biffa at 1:16 AM on March 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Look, good on you for asking the question. You posted it in Religion & Philosophy, so credit to you for even thinking about the moral implications of leaving NYC. I don't think you deserve the condemnation you're getting from a lot of people here. If you were an uncaring asshole, you'd have up and gone by now, and pushed any niggle of conscience out of your mind, if it had ever been there at all.

It's totally okay to wish you could ride this out in a home that's more comfortable, and to consider actually doing it. BUT - the important thing is you're "paralyzed by guilt and indecision" and "both have these weird feelings that abandoning New York is cowardly right now". That, to me, shows the better sides of your nature, and that ultimately you'll probably choose to stay because of those feelings.

Don't feel bad for considering leaving. No one in this thread is the saint they make themselves out to be. What matters is not what you think about, but what you do
posted by Zaire at 10:44 PM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

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