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N.Y.C. Density and Spread of Coronavirus

The densest city in the country is struggling with the rapid spread of the virus, and close proximity is likely a primary factor.
March 31, 2020, 6am PDT | Camille Fink
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Andrew F. Kazmierski

"New York has tried to slow the spread of the coronavirus by closing its schools, shutting down its nonessential businesses and urging its residents to stay home almost around the clock. But it faces a distinct obstacle in trying to stem new cases: its cheek-by-jowl density," writes Brian M. Rosenthal.

The coronavirus is spreading throughout the city and region at an alarming rate. The high density puts people in close contact on public transit, in public spaces, and in apartment buildings.

Rosenthal also looks at Los Angeles, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths are much lower than in New York City. The population of Los Angeles is half of New York City’s, with less crowded transportation, housing, and tourist spaces. In addition, other factors might be contributing to these differences, including warmer weather, less testing in Los Angeles, and better containment.

"Still, public health experts said that density was likely the biggest reason for why the virus has torn through New York City and not yet hit to the same degree elsewhere. They urged other cities and towns around the country to pay attention," says Rosenthal.

For more on the urban density debate that has grown from the spread of the pandemic and the public policy response, see previous coverage from Planetizen.

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Published on Monday, March 23, 2020 in The New York Times
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