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It’s only a hundred miles from Manhattan to East Hampton but as the city swelters the Long Island town can seem a world away. Cool Atlantic breezes take the heat off long summer days spent on its miles of white, soft sand beaches. High-priced farm stands provide heirloom tomatoes, peaches and arugula to summer visitors and the mansions of the financial titans and the celebrities, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Julianne Moore and Robert Downey Jr, who summer there.

Nor does the coronavirus pandemic seem to have dampened the 1%’s enthusiasm for the Hamptons.

If anything, quite the opposite. House prices are soaring. High-priced rentals have all been snapped up. It took developer Joe Farrell just one day to rent Sandcastle, his 15-bedroom mansion with sunken tennis courts, for $2m for the summer to “a textile tycoon and his family who were stuck in Manhattan and wanted to leave the city on a day’s notice. This was a Covid situation – not a normal summer rental”, he told the New York Post.

The Hamptons really is a world away for Sara Fearrington. It may as well be another planet. The 43-year-old lost her job at Waffle House in Durham, North Carolina, when the pandemic struck. Now she, her husband and their six children are trying to make ends meet on $125 in unemployment benefits each week. Fearrington is one of the 2.6 million people to have lost her job in the food services and drinking industry since February.

The Fearringtons had been receiving an extra $600 a week in benefits thanks to an emergency lifeline set up by Congress in March. That expired at the end of July and Washington is deadlocked over a replacement. “Now we literally have to sit here and wait, your head on a chopping block,” she said.

Once again coronavirus has shown that it is far more deadly for those suffering from pre-existing conditions. For the US body politic that pre-existing condition is inequality.

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