She and her husband had lived in Charlotte for 14 years. She said she felt that New Yorkers took the pandemic more seriously than other Americans. “We actually felt safer being in the city than we did in the South,” she said. “We were still surrounded by people who thought it was a hoax or not a big deal.”
Jon Gunnell, a nurse from Arkansas, moved to New York purely to help at the height of the crisis — and ended up never leaving. One day, he was listening to “The Dan Le Batard Show,” his favorite podcast, and found himself so moved by the interview with Dr. Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at N.Y.U. Langone Health, that he decided, right there, that he’d move up and do whatever he could to help.
With the assistance of an agency, Mr. Gunnell, 53, moved to Brooklyn in early March, and started working at a wound care clinic in the Bronx. He wasn’t worried about contracting the virus himself. “I just rationalized a lot to convince myself that I’m invincible,” he said. “The reason I came to New York was to disappear and become anonymous and you can do that real easy up here.”
He said he had recently gotten divorced. “I think I’m doing it for selfish reasons more than anything else,” he said. “Each time I faced my fears, my depression went away.”
It was a rough transition. His agency housing wasn’t what he was promised, and he spent more than one night sleeping in his car. He never felt like he quite belonged in New York, even in a shrunken version of itself, devoid of so many of its lively hallmarks. But then again, he never quite felt like he belonged in Arkansas, either. So he stayed put.
For others, the spread of the virus and the sound of sirens exacerbated the feelings of dread.
Tiana Miller-Leonard arrived in the city at the beginning of March, relocating to her company’s New York office. There were a few coronavirus cases in the Bay Area, where she previously lived, but, according to her, no one was taking them seriously.