The Pandemic Sent Young New Yorkers Packing. Will They Return?

The Pandemic Sent Young New Yorkers Packing. Will They Return?

Although the coronavirus’s hold has begun to ease, it may be too late to reverse one of the most worrisome imprints it has left on New York City.Young people who came to the city from elsewhere in their 20s and 30s to pursue their dreams have packed up and left in waves.Many of them are unemployed, were furloughed or have taken big pay cuts. More than two out of every five unemployment claims filed in New York State since late March were submitted by workers under 35. Their places of work — from the service industry to Broadway — have gone out of business or shut down indefinitely.Moving trucks have dotted blocks all over the city, especially in Lower Manhattan, an area with many younger residents. Lines of people waiting to place moving boxes on elevators have formed at apartment buildings. One younger resident of the city, Carlos Arana, 29, has returned to his parents’ home near Austin, Texas. In early March, after traveling to Peru for a family wedding, Mr. Arana returned to Texas instead of to New York, where he ran a virtual assistant business.A friend took over his Manhattan lease and sent him his clothes in about eight suitcases that cost $800 to ship via FedEx. He sold all his furnishings.Mr. Arana’s company has thrived during the pandemic, and he has learned that he can run it just as well from Texas as he did in New York City.“I’m kind of enjoying the nimbleness of not having any expenses for the first time in my life,” Mr. Arana said. “I’ll be in a very good position to go wherever I want.”There are no exact numbers on how many young people have left the city. Still, if many people like Mr. Arana choose not to come back, the impact would be significant.Already reeling under the enormous cost of the coronavirus response and a sustained shutdown, New York would face a blow in income and sales tax revenue.It would be deprived of an educated, creative and determined demographic that also includes native New Yorkers and is pivotal to maintaining the city’s prosperity and growth in important new fields, including the technology sector.Kaila Bernhardt, 26, fell in love with New York during a family trip when she was in second grade. She ventured into a bodega and was in awe of the array of products.She and her boyfriend, Nik Nugnes, finally moved to Manhattan last August. But they recently packed up many of their belongings and moved to her parents’ home on Cape Cod.Ms. Bernhardt, who works at a market research firm, had her salary cut shortly after the crisis started, and Mr. Nugnes’s company, a financial firm, is not rushing to bring its employees back to the office. Because of that, the couple have decided not to renew their lease.“We’ve talked about moving back, but I guess that’s not set in stone,” Mr. Nugnes, 26, said. “We are bummed that just as we were starting our lives in New York, we were robbed of that experience.”Their friends, Christa Montano and her fiancé, Tyler Wilmot, had begged them for years to join them in New York. But now they’re gone too. In March, Ms. Montano and Mr. Wilmot rented a car, stuffed clothes into a backpack and drove to her parents’ home in western Massachusetts.Since then, the couple, both 26, have returned to their 550-square-foot apartment in Manhattan’s West Village twice, once to get more clothing and then a final time in late April with a U-Haul to empty out their home of five years and cut short their lease.They loved their studio apartment, but it was less appealing when they were suddenly confined to it full time in early March after their employers closed their offices. At home, they could not be on work calls at the same time.Now, they are working remotely from Ms. Montano’s parent’s home in the Berkshires, with their apartment furnishings piled up in the garage. They hope to return to New York, but they aren’t sure when.“It’s a sad situation right now because all the things that we love about New York, we just can’t do them,” said Ms. Montano, a digital marketing manager. “Most of our friends have also left.”Of course, many young people have not left New York, either by choice or circumstance, or plan to come back. Others will continue to move to the city. Before the virus emerged, Wyatt Hnatiw, who works at a tech company in San Francisco, had set his sights on New York, wanting to live in a more culturally diverse city that is not dominated by one industry, as Silicon Valley and the Bay Area area.Mr. Hnatiw, 28, said that he still wanted to move, but that he was figuring out the best way to do it to keep himself and others safe.“I want to experience a city that has that culture of more things going on and more people than just tech people,” he said.New York City has long had an almost Oz-like appeal for young people willing to put up with its high cost of living, from immigrants hoping to climb the economic ladder to aspiring actors toiling in bars while going on audition after audition hoping for their big break.It is a place that so many people want to be because of its status as a global center of industries like advertising, banking, creative arts, finance and media. But the virus crisis has shifted the nature of work and the notion of office space with lightning speed. Companies are redesigning offices to allow more space between employees and embracing work-from-home arrangements.Two companies that have invested heavily in New York City, Facebook and Twitter, have already decided that some employees can work remotely for the foreseeable future.If more companies embrace such policies, staying in the city would become harder to justify, some young people said. They put up with the challenges — exorbitant rents for tiny living spaces is a chief one — because of what New York offers: world-class restaurants, acclaimed Broadway shows, renowned cultural institutions and bountiful parks.

Updated June 16, 2020

I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

But much of that is now closed, and it is unclear what those venues will look like when they reopen.Megan Taylor, a marketing manager, set her sights on moving to New York after graduating from the University of Florida. In 2015, she accepted a job in the Tampa, Fla., offices of Rakuten Advertising, which has its North America headquarters in New York.After about two years in Florida, she transferred to the New York office, where she works with retail companies.Her office shut down in March, and Ms. Taylor, 30, tried to work out of the East Village apartment that she shares with two friends, paying $2,300 a month in rent. She said she quickly realized it made no sense to pay so much and be stuck mostly indoors.On April 18, she moved in with her parents in Stuart, Fla., where she works on the outdoor patio some days. She is returning to New York in June to move her belongings into a storage unit, which she plans to keep in anticipation of an eventual return to the city.She has also updated her paycheck withholding to indicate that she now lives in Florida, which does not have a state income tax.“I’m saving all my New York State and Manhattan taxes,” she said. “It’s the only time as a young New Yorker that I could save a decent chunk of my money.”In just two months, New York City businesses that tend to hire young workers have shed hundreds of thousands of jobs. Restaurants, including some that made New York a culinary destination, have shuttered. Museums are closed. Broadway may not reopen until 2021. From March to April, arts and entertainment businesses in New York City laid off 67,200 people — 78 percent of its work force, according the city comptroller. Only dine-in restaurants, which can start providing outdoor dining on Monday, let go of more employees: 119,000.Jesse Elgene, 25, had been trying since last July to break into New York’s theater scene.He took improv comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center and sold tickets at TodayTix, a Broadway ticketing company. Now the training center has permanently closed and there are no tickets to sell.On March 13, he bought a Greyhound ticket, packed up his Brooklyn apartment and hopped on a bus with a duffel bag for Virginia. He is living with his girlfriend in her apartment in Newport News outside Norfolk, Va.“That theater was such a huge part of what I loved about New York,” Mr. Elgene said. “Now, I’m so open-ended. I’m wondering about Atlanta or Los Angeles.”Nancy Coleman contributed reporting.


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