how was your week?

1,423 New York Readers on the Coronavirus, Class, and Money

“Why is my life and my family’s life less important than theirs because of my income?”

Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Worldwide, deaths from the coronavirus have passed 100,000. In New York, over 170,000 confirmed cases have resulted in nearly 8,000 deaths and 19,000 hospitalizations – though, so far, fears of hospital bed shortages have not been realized. With more than 16 million Americans now out of work, scores of New Yorkers found themselves repeatedly losing a maddening lottery trying to apply for unemployment. Many others found themselves even more attuned to disparities in race and class that the virus has heightened. Here is what 1,423 of our readers were experiencing this week.

How would you describe your emotional state right now?

Very anxious and/or scared: 16.34%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 40.89%
Concerned: 30.72%
Slightly concerned: 9.49%
Totally fine: 2.56%

How sick do you feel right now?

Like I’ve been hit by a truck: 0.98%
Seasonally sick; feels like a common cold: 3.31%
Slightly under the weather: 8.20%
Relatively fine, I guess?: 64.33%
Picture of health: 23.18%

Do you know anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus?

No: 52.44%
Yes: 47.56%

Do you know anyone who has been hospitalized because of it?

No: 77.85%
Yes: 22.15%

Do you, or anyone you know, think you might have it but can’t get tested?

No: 57.81%
Yes: 42.19%

Do you, or anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?

No: 79.85%
Yes: 20.15%

How often are you leaving your home?

Not at all: 15.68%
Just for essential errands: 77.05%
I still have to leave for work, but am not making many other trips: 6.66%
I’m living my life as normal: 0.61%

Have you lost work or had your hours reduced since the outbreak began?

No: 52.12%
Yes: 29.14%
Not applicable: 18.74%

If you’ve lost work, have you filed for unemployment?

I’ve applied successfully: 20.97%
I’m trying to apply but can’t get through (site crashing/phone lines busy): 12.63%
I haven’t applied because I’m not sure if I’m eligible: 27.96%
I haven’t applied for other reasons: 38.44%

Has anyone in your household filed for unemployment?

No: 85.78%
They’re trying to apply but can’t get through (site crashing/phone lines busy): 3.81%
Yes: 10.41%

Do you think your class and/or race have played a role in how the virus has affected your life? If so, how?

“Someone older once asked me what millennials are so afraid of. And I tried to explain that it’s hard to picture a future when you know there’s another decade or so left of student loan payments. Can’t afford a house, or daycare for a child. Can’t afford an emergency. And that’s what it is now; an emergency we can’t afford. We have little to no savings, we’re renting, and our landlord is refusing to offer any relief; my partner lost his job and no one in his field is hiring; and I’m furloughed. My partner can’t afford Obamacare, let alone COBRA, so he’s uninsured and if he gets sick (he has asthma) I’m terrified of what the medical bill will look like.”

“The elites deemed my job essential but they can work from home comfortably with true knowledge they’re safe. Why is my life and my family’s life less important than theirs because of my income?”

“I am privileged to be able to work from home without loss of income. And lucky to have plentiful food (via weekly grocery delivery). We have wifi and tablets for our kids to use for distance learning – and to help keep them from going totally stir crazy. Being able to socially distance feels very much tied up with class. As an Asian American, I am furious about the “Chinese Virus,” acts of discrimination, and hate towards Asians. The recent studies that showed that much of the virus in New York stemmed from Europe, not Asian, sent me into a rage laughter spiral.”

“I am one of the few black people that can work from home. I luckily have a white collar job, but my 60-year-old mother does not. She’s had to lose her wages by staying home from one of her jobs. I feel like this is Katrina, I’m so scared for my people, black people. We are being treated horribly by this disease, and I knew this would happen.”

“Having to bartend the weekend before the shutdown was terrifying. I had someone put their credit card in their mouth and hand it to me the last Sunday we were open. The people who were still out were terrifying in their lack of care. But I still had to serve them, because I can’t work from home. I had a tickle in my throat from seasonal allergies but don’t get paid sick leave, and there was no one to cover my shift even if I did call out. Yes, I know the city mandates paid sick leave, but the reality of the service industry is that no one gets it”

“The transit authority (my employer) is majority ‘minorities,’ and that directly has to do with how workers are perceived and treated. Pandemic or not, we’re treated as if we are lazy and expendable, which doesn’t happen to the mostly-white LIRR workforce (even though they are routinely graded the worst commuter rail service in the country). The governor’s cute TV speeches make non-New Yorkers think that MTA employees are valued, but his regular disdain for us is well known in the authority. It is no surprise that we haven’t received hazard pay, or been given better safety precautions, even as we have been hit extremely hard by the virus.

“My grandmother lives paycheck to paycheck in NYC and still had to be working through the pandemic. She couldn’t afford to stay home because her landlord has wanted to kick her out for over a year now. I tried to tell her about all the government relief there is, but she doesn’t trust that it will help her. Last week she got infected with the virus and kept the fact that she was sick hidden from the rest of the family. This morning she told me that at the height of her sickness she felt like she was going to die, she was in awe of how much power it had over her body. Because of our class and immigration status my grandmother could have died at home last week from this virus without the rest of our family knowing.”

“I’m African American and I have several friends and family members who have contracted the virus. Many of them are essential workers and have no choice but to go to work. Not all of these employers provide the protections they need. I lost a family member to COVID-19. I am fortunate to have a job that I can work from home. But everyone around cannot. Like it or not, most POC have little access to corporate work. We go the easiest route available to us. government, transportation, retail and the medical sectors. This is a historical heirloom. We have always been the caregivers and builders in this country. This is its legacy and again we bear the brunt of the worst that hits this country. There is no acknowledgement of this and I doubt there ever will be.”

“I lost my job as a chef/line cook and there are no resources. The unemployment website has not worked for me in three weeks. The phone lines are impossible. Then I sit in my tiny apartment that I’m worried about paying for and hear that Boeing and other corporations who basically pay zero taxes are getting billions post haste. It’s infuriating how badly the federal government is failing or simply just doesn’t give a shit about the working class.”

“Every Asian-American I know is afraid of being attacked because of Trump’s Chinese virus remarks. People tell us to go back to our country. Just because our community is not white doesn’t make us any less American. I grew up in NYC and many of my AAPI friends are frontline health workers or other essential employees. Clapping is nice, but standing up for them would be even better.”

“While I’m from a racial minority, I do have a certain amount of class privilege. But I wonder, if I were to contract the virus, would that be enough to save me? If I go to the hospital, am I less likely to be taken seriously because I’m Black?”

How has the coronavirus changed the way you think about money?

“When I’m not working it’s all I think about. I’ve dropped every ‘luxury’ I can think of and I’m anxious every day that if I don’t overwork myself to prove my worth, I’ll get laid off and I’ll be unable to pay rent. I’m terrified of getting sick not for my health, but because of the costs.”

“I feel immense gratitude for steady wages and am anxious to use the money I’m saving by staying home to aggressively pay off debt in case that money disappears. I’m thinking also about how to profit off the market downturn in ways I never would have. As an older millennial, I lived through the recession in 2008, but didn’t have the income or the cash to properly capitalize off the upswing. I don’t want to miss that opportunity again.”

“I thought I would be willing to do anything for money. However since the coronavirus crisis worsened, I stopped being a gig worker for Postmates and Instacart. My fears that I might get sick or die won over my desperate need for money to pay my bills.”

“I’m terrified of another depression/recession. Billionaires should be stripped of 90% of their wealth. If people don’t have food no one should have that much money. I’m also worried about joining a workforce in the next year or so during uncertain economic times. Bernie Sanders was my hope that going forward I might have the same opportunities as my parents had. Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it does cushion the pandemic catastrophe.”

“I often think about class issues, but now I’m almost painfully aware of how privileged I am. For me, this whole situation is a significant inconvenience. For millions of workers and millions of families it’s much more serious. The thought of being deemed ‘essential’ when you’re really not, or having no real safety net in terms of sick leave or health insurance… I can’t imagine what it’s like to work in an Amazon warehouse or a Domino’s right now.”

“It has become even more apparent how little can be done without even one paycheck, or a reduction in that paycheck. One lost paycheck means lost accommodation. One lost paycheck means an inability to pay for means of survival.”

“It’s made me even more thankful to have a consistent salary. People on my Twitter timeline were talking about not paying their rent on April 1st, but some of the people saying that definitely still have money coming in. That’s ridiculous to me. If you can afford to pay your rent, pay it, so that if someone else in your building literally cannot pay theirs, maybe your landlord will be more lenient with them. That’s just one example, but I’ve thought a lot about how not being an hourly worker and the fact that I have money in the bank put me in such a better position for something like this to happen. I’m definitely worried about getting laid off in the future (I work in magazines), but for now, I’m doing okay, and I’m incredibly lucky.”

“I’m constantly checking the stock market all day long. I have checked my bank account at least five times a day for the past three weeks. I’m so scared I won’t be able to feed my family. My job is full time. Homeschooling is now full time. My third job is online shopping for toilet paper and milk. It’s beyond stressful.”

“I’m normally sort of a skeptic capitalist or maybe someone looking for a nice capitalist-socialist balance. But this has made stark how toxic the American brand of capitalism is in the United States. “The Economy” (I don’t even know what those words mean anymore, some days) stopped us from taking necessary actions to save human lives, to protect ourselves and others. And in all likelihood, it will cause us to resume things in a way that puts more people in danger. Not to mention how it exacerbates vulnerability for low-income households during a crisis and negatively contributes to health and underlying conditions leading up to a pandemic. At a moment like this, who cares about money? How is it even relevant? We are in a global crisis. Call a few months a wash and print some more paper to fill in the gap.”

“I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck my entire adult life despite having ‘good jobs’ because of student debt and credit card debt from graduating into the worst hiring year of the last recession. After grinding under this for 11 years, I was a few months from feeling freedom, and thinking I could maybe start saving money, maybe not be living paycheck to paycheck by the time I got to my 40s. Now I’ve lost employment, don’t know how to pay the bills, and figure it’s going to be paycheck to paycheck at best until I die.”

“It’s making me reassess my priorities. I’ve been working incredibly hard for years to get ahead at work and have financial stability. I have sacrificed relationships and possibly having children and now have no financial stability anyway. I have spent too much money on the appearance of success rather than on real stability and the things that really matter.”

“I’ve made a career working backstage on and off-Broadway. (I was working on a Broadway show at the time of the shutdown.) Being in and out of employment has always come with the territory, and I have learned to effectively save money when I have work for those times when I am between jobs. But what is different now is not knowing when or if my job will ever come back, especially since my industry is considered ‘non-essential.’ Now I find myself more worried than during previous ‘normal’ periods of unemployment because the chance that I’ll have an income (with benefits) again any time soon feels like a very dim prospect.”

“I used to think billionaires should pay taxes. I now think there should be no billionaires. This pandemic has radicalized me to an extent that I didn’t know was possible. It’s also changed how I think about my own money and relationship with money. It turns out I actually could save a ton of money every month – I just would have to stop spending it on eating out, drinking at bars, and expensive clothes/piercings that I don’t really need. That’s been a huge wake-up call. I guess I could have been saving money all along if I’d denied myself more luxuries – which I’m not sure I would have wanted to do, or will start doing after this. Right now, I have no luxuries except the luxury of being in a safe house, with a safe family, with food to eat. That should be a norm, not a luxury – and that brings me back to ‘there should be no billionaires.’”

“I used to work as a server in a busy and lucrative restaurant, where the more tables I took and the more shifts I picked up, the more money I made. I often joke and lament that I made more money as a server than I do now as a public school teacher (which was true!). But now I realize that while that restaurant job paid me significantly better, it’s my college education and upper-middle class background that give me the job security I have now. The freedom from worry that my paycheck will disappear, that my job will evaporate overnight, that I might not be able to afford healthcare – that is what my privilege affords me.”

How has it changed the way you think about your colleagues’ or friends’ money?

“It really stratifies preexisting social and financial class boundaries. My friends who work(ed) in the service industry seem to have fallen on the other side of the line that separates the working class from the professional managerial class. Even those with incomes that were similar to mine, who rented the same apartments, drank at the same bars, and took the same vacations as me are now, it seems, in a different category of worker.”

“It has been interesting to see who has left town to quarantine upstate or in the Hampton’s. We’re fortunate but we’re not rich and I’m always surprised just by how much money some people have.”

“I mentioned to my friends I was trying to figure out how best to spend the $1,200 stimulus and they both said ‘Oh, you’re getting that check?’ which made me realize my friends make a lot more money than me.”

“I’m doing more comparison. Thinking about who’s anxious about their money right now, who’s not. Kind of ‘rolling my eyes’ at people who are more financially comfortable than I am when they talk about being worried about not getting their raises or even small pay cuts. I’m totally judging people who have it easier than I do even though I have it pretty easy. Things are more tense with roommates. I want to break my lease and move in with family to save money while we aren’t staying in our apartment and probably won’t be for months. I want to save money on rent to prepare for the indefinite economic uncertainty. I don’t think they are as concerned.”

“The non-profit organization I work for implemented a 20% salary reduction across the board for the foreseeable future. Because of the 990, I know how much our C-suite makes, and I know how much the most junior staff in the organization make because they report to me. I am furious that our C-suite did not take a larger cut to their $200-300k salaries so that our associates could continue to be financially secure. Our COO continues to talk about his $600 grocery deliveries while one of our associates has moved back home with her parents and is now uncertain when and if she’ll be able to return due to her loss of salary.”

“It highlights for me how privileged my family is – out of my 16 closest relatives, only one has been furloughed. I have a lot of friends who rely on precarious museum and academic work and they are currently okay but are likely to get hit hard due to budget cuts. In that respect, the economic impact to my friends and family is likely to be farther down the road. For me personally, I know I’ve got work through the end of 2020 but COVID-19 will likely shrink the already tight market of jobs I’m eligible for.”

“All my friends are losing their jobs and I feel this insane survivors’ guilt and I’m trying to buy my way out by Venmo-ing [them] like I’m buying indulgences.”

“I’m ashamed of my apartment on my multiple daily video meetings. I place my head to cover a dark brown leak spot on the ceiling. I’ve come to realize friends and colleagues are extremely wealthy just by their surroundings (or ability to leave the city for another home).”

Have you found yourself judging your friends or colleagues more or less during self-isolation? Why?

“I’ve always been a judgmental person, but I’ve found it exceptionally draining as of late. One of my colleagues had a surprisingly myopic statement when she found out I was being furloughed, but it was more an indication of how extremely wealthy she and her family are more than an indication of her feelings towards me. So maybe only more judgmental to rich people?”

“I don’t judge, but I do wonder if my friends recognize what a privilege it is that they can run ‘home’ to their parents houses during times like these. That if they lose their jobs, they have people who will help pay their bills until they’re back on their feet. I look at upper management in my company and wonder why they are comfortable letting the handful of hourly employees on our staff go without any form of compensation for months, while the rest of our paychecks are unaffected.”

“I live in an apartment in New Jersey. All my friends with houses and more disposable income than me talking about what they’re buying and how they have easy (private) access to the outdoors make me jealous.”

“I have judged people for going out for non-essential reasons. Some of my neighbors are letting contractors in the building (after we were told only to do so for emergencies) and some are getting furniture delivered. These are not “essential” services. The more cavalier people are about this, the longer the stay-at-home order in my state (Virginia, where the governor is also a doctor) will have to remain in place.”

“I find myself being judgmental of friends who are not being mindful of the workers who are risking their lives for us. Some friends are still ordering Instacart and Amazon grocery delivery, when they are perfectly healthy and able to go to a store using the proper precautions. I haven’t been judgmental of friends’ bursts of anxiety, but I’ve been more mindful of protecting my energy and distancing myself (digitally) from friends who are affecting my peace of mind during this time.”

“When it comes to people I know, I’ve actually been less judgmental lately. And I tend to be judge-y. I have anxiety and depression myself, and now it almost feels as if the entire world is being subjected to experiences I’ve had because of that. I do find myself judging random people I pass on walks, especially if they are wearing the N-95 masks (which should be going to medical professionals who desperately need them).”

“I moved into a studio apartment at the end of March and can’t go home to be with my family, so I actually spend all of my time for real alone. I can give the exact date and time stamp of the last time I hugged someone. And so seeing people complain about having to be inside with their family or roommates who they like or their partners (or in homes with more than a big room and a bathroom) makes me more annoyed than I should be. Or the lack of sympathy for people who are as alone/cut-off as I am. A friend posted on Instagram stories that this isn’t that hard, that you just have to suck it up and you’ll get through it, but this has been really difficult. I feel desperately alone and no amount of video calls is really going to help that. I will continue to follow the rules of social distancing and self isolation, but I also get people who go to a friend’s house and sit on their front porch and talk to their friends through an open door 6 feet apart. It’s a technicality that probably shouldn’t happen, but I can’t fault someone needing a genuine human connection on the day that DC said the mayor may extend this to mid-June.”

“I think everyone is struggling, even my wealthy friends who have it relatively easy— they have anxiety, worry about their kids and their communities. I am lucky that my colleagues and clients have been really human through all this. My husband has people at work who act like it’s all just an inconvenience, and get annoyed when someone gets sick or isn’t available because they are educating their kids.”

“As part of a couple who are both currently unemployed I wish currently employed friends were more appreciative of that fact. That said, I still feel immensely appreciative of the things I have (a supportive partner, ability to pay rent, but food, stay home). Also, as we were planning to start a family now… I wish there was more awareness of the myriad of ways lives have been interrupted beyond working from home and unemployment. On the other hand everyone is going through something so it’s hard to judge and it helps to just move through this with mindfulness and kindness to others.”

“Judging? Maybe…just a little. I am appalled at some of my friends whose wealth insulates them from it all. They like to tell me about their recent call with their broker or financial advisor, ‘He said I should be fine, maybe even better off, when this is over.’ They will fill conversations with talk of what their gardener wants to do to their rose garden or that the painter messed up (again!) on the sunroom woodwork. Then there are the zealots. Those who say they can’t leave the house for fear of exposure yet think nothing of asking me to pick up a dozen things from two different stores because they don’t like the shallots at Safeway. They bug me a lot.”

“Every decision now is an ethical one. When you are making personal sacrifices in your own life, it can be jarring and offensive when someone you love acts with total disregard for the greater collective. When tests were still extremely scarce, my rich friend was so paranoid that she used her connections to get tests for her entire family despite the fact that they were young, healthy and entirely asymptomatic. Her failure to see the problem with this action has become a source of conflict in our relationship.”

1,423 New York Readers on the Coronavirus, Class, and Money