Many of those I spoke to are in places where they feel relatively safe. Many don’t realize they may be in a bubble of false security as the number of coronavirus infections spreads out into suburban and rural Long Island — including Suffolk County, home of the Hamptons — and other areas where the country’s extremely wealthy have second homes.
One hedge fund billionaire is at his ranch in Texas; another is isolating from other family members on a compound in Martha’s Vineyard; a couple is in a villa on Harbour Island, Bahamas; an individual rented a yacht on the Long Island Sound … and so on.
It would be unfair to say that these people are living without fear. If they needed any proof that Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate by pocketbook, they need look no further than some of the high-profile confirmed cases like Knicks owner James Dolan, actor Tom Hanks and Prince Charles.
“We are just trying to do our best for ourselves and our families. You can’t blame us for that,” one multimillionaire with three country homes told me.
But while the wealthy may not be immune, their affluence makes it easier for them to insulate themselves. Unlike essential workers, housekeepers or nannies who cannot survive without their weekly paychecks, publications like The New York Times have data showing how those of means were able adopt protective isolation measures earlier than lower-income workers.
The top 1% of US earners can do that even better than the rest of us. Some of those in the Hamptons seem even to be enjoying themselves. Some are playing golf while others are gardening and comparing notes about hygiene. One person I know has her family’s food driven out from New York City every day. It’s not the same experience as walking past the hospital tents in Central Park or the boarded-up stores. And it can be harshly antithetical to the experience of an essential worker who must take public transport to get to a hospital or grocery store for a day’s work.
Two people I spoke to told me that they have obtained prophylactically, their own stash of the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, currently undergoing clinical trials as a possible therapy but not yet proven safe and effective for this use. Vasan says that whichever doctor supplied the drug behaved not only dangerously, but irresponsibly.
“Every hospital in the city is doing clinical trials of that medicine under controlled conditions so to say: I’m going to give it to someone in their home without the ability to truly monitor them … I don’t consider them to be remotely responsible,” Vasan said.
Somewhere in all this, there is a very grim morality story.
Foreman says that the social division of Covid-19 could be summarized as “The Makers and the Takers.” If you’re a Maker, you’re someone who has found a way to contribute to the community in various ways, from the student who set up a volunteer network to shop for the elderly to first responders and workers like caregivers who take daily personal risks to save others. If you’re a Taker, you’re fixated only on yourself, your survival — and what the pandemic will mean for your bottom line.
Source: Vicky Ward – a senior reporter at CNN
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