Brett Arends's ROI: Coronavirus hits Florida home of Trump, Limbaugh and Mar-a-Lago

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The coronavirus crisis is taking its toll even on America’s most exclusive retirement community: Tony, conservative Palm Beach, Florida. But everything is relative.

“It feels like we are on a forced vacation,” Bobbi Levin, 80, tells Kaiser Health News. “I do crossword puzzles and catch up with Netflix.”

Jerry Levy, 87, says the crisis and the stay at home order have stopped his usual rounds of poker, tennis, and dinner with friends in his Polo Club gated community.

“People are getting cranky,” says adds wife Thelma, 88. “Mentally, people are breaking down. Two weeks was fine, but it’s hard to accept that this is how it’s going to be for a while.”

Palm Beach, famously exclusive and conservative, is the home of conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and of president Trump’s so-called “Winter White House,” his Mar-a-Lago private club.

Kaiser News notes that Palm Beach County is leading Florida with Covid-19 deaths. But these things are relative. As of Wednesday, April 8, it had seen 69 deaths out of a total population of 1.5 million.

That’s 46 deaths per million population. (By Thursday the total was up to 73, or 49 per million.)

The figure for New York City: 4,426 deaths, or 515 per million of population.

Making the difference even more remarkable is that Palm Beach skews far older than New York City, or most other counties in America. One resident in four is over 65, reports Kaiser News. Ninety-three percent of those in the county who have died with the disease were over 65, and 71% were over 80.

Palm Beach residents are typically well-to-do, and can afford better health care than the average retiree. But that may not be the county’s only advantage. Kaiser News, for example, reports that Palm Beach has suffered from a huge shortfall in testing.

Other possible advantages may include that many residents are living in gated communities that consist largely of other retirees. This will include many 55-and-over communities and buildings.

As a result, they may not mingle as much with younger, asymptomatic virus carriers as retirees in other locations.

Their kids and grandkids, famously, are often a thousand miles away in the north. “You never visit” is the clichéd lament of Florida grandparents to their children and grandchildren. Right now that could be a blessing.

And it’s easier to practice “isolation” and “social distancing” when you live in a condo in sunny Florida instead of a cramped apartment in Manhattan. Although homes on Palm Beach island itself are prohibitively expensive — according to Zillow, the average selling price is north of $800,000 — those elsewhere in the county are cheaper than one might imagine. And at the moment there are many worse places to be retired.

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