All I Wanted Was to Be Interrogated
On a reporter’s 27-hour journey from Hong Kong to New York City, hardly anyone seemed to care about her health.
When I tell people I flew back to New York City from Hong Kong last weekend, many ask one of two questions.
The first: How long do you have to quarantine? And the second: They must have asked you a lot of questions at the airport, right?
The answer to the first is zero days. In many parts of the world right now — including Greece, Ghana, New Zealand and Hong Kong — anyone arriving from abroad must undergo a mandatory two-week period of isolation to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. In some of these places, if new arrivals are caught even running to the corner store, they may face penalties such as a $3,000 fine or six months in jail.
But in the United States, there is no mandatory 24-7-you-better-not-even-step-outside quarantine for Americans coming from any foreign location, regardless of the status of the outbreak there. Non-Americans from some perceived coronavirus hot spots have been barred from entering altogether.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some special recommendations for arrivals from these same hot spots. (Hong Kong is not on that list.) And everyone in New York City is currently required to spend most of their time hidden away. But there aren’t any extra rules for people like me who just stepped off an international flight.
The answer to the second question, about what must surely have been a rigorous screening at the airport, is: Let me tell you a story. But it may not end the way you want it to.
It begins with emptiness.
When I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on the night of March 27, I saw so few passengers that I began to wonder if all flights had been canceled. A few days earlier there had been a rumor that was going to happen.
But, no. The airport bouncers asked for my boarding pass. I think they also zapped my forehead with one of those temperature scanners, but I can’t be certain. After three weeks in Hong Kong, I had stopped noticing when masked strangers took my temperature. It’s that common.
To say the security line was short would be false, because you cannot have a line of just yourself. Once I got past that, the only other “people” I saw were beautiful unmasked Gucci models hugging horses and floating in pools projected across massive screens. (Why would you wear leather gloves in a pool? But this was not a corona-specific issue.)
Top Posts in April