In the U.S., unbelievably, whether to leave is still up to you, as is where to go. If you fled for the hills the moment you read about Dr. Li Wenliang’s death in February, then kudos. I’m jealous of your paranoia, and perhaps you didn’t endanger anyone. But if you left this week, or are planning on leaving, you are nakedly prioritizing your comfort and peace of mind over the physical health of others. Don’t start in on Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, or any of those faraway self-dealers unless you start by doing what you can do to be part of the solution. Stay home.
I borrowed some of this moral clarity from an aunt in Madrid. She had watched with horror and fascination as politicians in Italy (about as far ahead of Spain along the coronavirus curve as Spain is of the United States) leaked news about a planned quarantine so that, instead of being contained, the virus scattered around the country on the wings of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions. That was on my aunt’s mind as the cordon started closing in on her city. She and her partner thought about fleeing to the village of Adahuesca, but, as she put it, “there was a chance that we’d just kill all the old people there.” They stayed put.
The restrictions in Madrid make New York’s stay-at-home guidelines look like an invitation to bacchanalia (seriously, why are our playgrounds still open?). In Madrid today, you can’t walk a dog with more than one person. Police have the discretion under Penal Code 556 of fining you if you are smoking or otherwise loitering on the street.