Density Takes Center Stage in the Pandemic, Again

The latest in a series of compendia tackling the effects of the pandemic, now and in the future, for cities and communities.

8 minute read

January 7, 2021, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Coronavirus Testing

Joe Tabacca / Shutterstock

Since March 2020, Planetizen has been tracking the stories that have attempted to make sense of the world during the pandemic, and how the pandemic might alter the future direction of communities. Many of the themes have repeated, with only slight variations as the coronavirus has revealed its effects for public health, the economy, and society.

As the calendar year turned, two major themes can be seen in the news. One is the traditional post-mortem on the year in terms related to planning and design. Planetizen recently published two articles with the same purpose: sifting through the news of the year for indications of how the pandemic is changing the world, and how it will continue to do so in the future.

The second theme is the reemergence of density as a fulcrum in the debate about how the novel coronavirus is spreading. For several months, the question of whether density was spreading the coronavirus (cause) took a backseat to analysis and speculation about migration trends during the pandemic (effect)—a theme that might have reemerged because of yet another shift in the geography of the pandemic. Now that Los Angeles and Southern California have become hot zones for the pandemic, density is again assuming a central role in the conversation.

It must also be noted that the new year begins in the worst moments of the pandemic in terms of new infections and deaths. On January 6, the same day that a seditionist mob incited by the President of the United States attacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and briefly shut down the constitutional duties of the elected bodies to ratify the November 2020 election, more Americans died of COVID-19 in one day that any previous day in the pandemic.

Despite the (heavily criticized) rollout of the vaccine and the approval of a new economic stimulus package by the federal government, the articles below were published in the darkest period of the pandemic so far.

Status Check

Density Debate

2020 Post-Mortem

Pattern Shift

Coronavirus and Transportation


James Brasuell

James Brasuell is a writer and editor, producing web, print, and video content on the subjects of planning, urbanism, and mobility. James has managed all editorial content and direction for Planetizen since 2014 and was promoted to editorial director in 2021. After a first career as a class five white water river guide in Trinity County in Northern California, James started his career in Los Angeles as a volunteer at a risk reduction center in Skid Row.

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