So why was my friend so flummoxed at the possibility I’d be spending a lot of time outside? For the average city dweller, the feelings I experienced in my second anecdote are likely regular occurrences. It is difficult, for example, to socially distance in an elevator. Going into the street to avoid someone on the sidewalk can be a risky proposition. Taking children outside often involves going to a public playground. You might safely distance yourself from others in mass transit, or an Uber, but who was sitting in that seat before you? And every trip involves touching a large number of foreign surfaces, sometimes because one must but other times inadvertently.
This is likely why New York City is being hit so hard by the pandemic compared to other large cities; and it also probably helps explain the partisan divide to some degree. If you live in the type of densely populated urban areas where coronavirus fears are at the forefront of your mind as you go about your daily business, you’re also disproportionately likely to be a Democratic voter. On the other hand, voters in rural and exurban areas are more likely to be Republican, and are simply experiencing a different reality right now. This is always the case, in many ways, but the contrasts are particularly salient right now. As the fallout from the coronavirus continues, these differences are only going to become more pronounced.