IRVINGTON, N.Y. — New York is well stocked with uncertainty this week. I am sheltering in place and wish I were somewhere else.
I covered wars in the Middle East and Central America for CBS News. We were dealing with enemies we could identify, and I knew there was no bullet with my name on it. Now we are doing battle with an invisible enemy, and my immunosuppressant treatments for multiple sclerosis have disabled my immune system and put a target on my back.
I am holed up at home in the big city. I would like to go to a place where I can get out and breathe. There is a village on Cape Cod where we have a house. To hide on the Outer Cape is an appealing thought. It just sounds good, though some of us have to move mountains in our heads to jump ship and go there. Anyone flirting with that fantasy might want to give the plan deeper thought. Sometimes we think with our hearts, not our heads. My Plan A is to hold steady in New York. But I wonder if I dare morph Plan B into Plan A and flee.
There are too many people here in the city. A new strategy — to leave — seems to be grounded in the wish to be both protected and at peace. Those two don’t always fit together. Yet in my mind’s eye, I stand on the beach at Race Point and feel a vibration. It is the anxiety of Boston just across the water wafting over me. Then I sigh and walk away.
Clear skies and a warming breeze can become a drug that soothes. In our heads, pristine beaches protect us from the invading virus. That assurance did not work so well for the Germans on D-Day. They were underprepared. This is a mind game. Mayhem seems to grip overcrowded cities where the populace is wound too tight. The villages along the coast seem sleepy, a modern Brigadoon. Brigadoon was the fictional Irish hamlet that awoke every hundred years.
The truth is the coronavirus already has landed on our shores. It is everywhere. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
Residents of Provincetown are being informed that the town’s emergency management staff are on the job, integrating local with state and federal efforts. But residents must stay strong.
“Resilient communities are safer communities,” says the town website, “and resilience starts at home amongst our families, loved ones, and neighbors.” In the end, all of us are on our own. That is the case everywhere.
I’ve read the reports of tension between year-rounders and summer residents who are arriving now to escape the dangers of the city. The locals fear that precious supplies will be used up and city dwellers will bring in the virus. But don’t the people who own those summer places have the right to use them?
Yes, but there is a difference between sheltering and escaping. The good people of the Outer Cape are going to come together and do everything they can to stay safe and protect their families, friends, and neighbors. Should those of us with alternatives, even crowded and unpleasant ones, flee them?
I write articles, not prescriptions, but I urge everyone to think twice before making big changes. Medical experts tell us this pandemic is about to explode. Already the Provincetown Select Board has declared a state of emergency, and there are multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19. The numbers are sure to grow.
I have decided to stay in New York. I hope my friends on the Outer Cape can take care of themselves.
Richard M. Cohen is an Emmy-winning former senior producer for CBS News and CNN and a New York Times best-selling author. His most recent book is Chasing Hope.