Not long after my family and I left New York City to wait out the coronavirus crisis from our house in the Hamptons, the broker who sold it to us a decade ago called my wife, Dawn. She wanted to know where we were planning to self-isolate.

“We are going to stay here,” Dawn said.

“I could rent your place for a lot of money,” the woman countered. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

For years, we tried to rent our house in August, when the Hamptons are so inundated with high-rolling New York City residents that it becomes nearly unbearable. We have invariably failed. Our house is modest, and so is our Southampton neighborhood; we live on what’s called the bay side, far from the multimillion-dollar mansions that abut the ocean. But of course, the ocean is not the draw for the city dwellers now. With the city the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, anybody with the means to get out is doing so.

You can’t really blame us. Given the choice between being cooped up in a two-bedroom apartment in the densest city in the U.S. or staying in a three-bedroom house with a backyard, it’s no contest, especially with young children. When Dawn and I decided to head to Southampton two and a half weeks ago, we weren’t thinking much beyond our family’s safety. I can’t tell you how many times since then we’ve told ourselves how lucky we are to have such a place to hide from the virus when so many others can’t. Of course, no one truly hides from this virus, something the locals are all too aware of as they watch people like Dawn and me coming in from the city. It’s created a certain, shall we say, tension.

For most of the year, the Southampton population is about 60,000. In the summer, however, it balloons to three or four times that size, Jay Schneiderman, the town supervisor, told me. Two-thirds of the homes in Southampton are summer residences, he said. And to judge by all the cars I see in driveways, almost all of them are inhabited now, even though it’s March.

Southampton wasn’t ready for the onslaught. A few weeks ago, when the migration was in full swing, grocery shelves were quickly emptied. (Thing are better now.) Many stores and restaurants had minimal staff. So did the town itself. “My staffing levels are winter levels — including police,” Schneiderman said.

Of course the primary worry is whether the influx of city people will hasten the spread of the virus to full-time residents. The Stony Brook Southampton hospital has 124 beds and is as worried about being overwhelmed as any other hospital. As of Sunday, Southampton had 68 confirmed cases — with two deaths — up from two cases in mid-March. The hospital staff is telling those who most likely have the virus to stay at home to save the hospital beds for those who are sickest.

“They’re going to give it to us,” the mother of an acquaintance told her.

A friend took her car to be repaired. One of the repairmen muttered, “They’re all coming here now.”

First « 1 2 3 » Next