The coronavirus pandemic presents a cruel irony for urban dwellers. What good are cities if the very quality that makes them so dynamic—the ease of connecting with people and gathering in large groups for everything from a baseball game to an opera—now renders them more dangerous than before?

That question lies at the heart of concerns over the future of cities in a post-covid world. Social distancing, mask wearing, and restrictions on mass gatherings will continue in many places, at least until enough people are vaccinated for communities to reach herd immunity. Downtowns remain largely dormant, their offices and transit hubs drained of nonessential workers. At the same time, municipal coffers are taking huge hits from lost tax revenue. Fewer visitors and sales mean less funding for vital city services, including public schools and sanitation, or for cherished amenities like parks.

Adding to these economic hardships, it seems only sensible to shy away from cities during a pandemic.


In the United States, didn’t covid-19 first rage through New York, America’s largest city? Doesn’t the density of such places make them inevitable hot spots for highly contagious viruses? Haven’t people instinctively fled to the countryside during epidemics at least since the Middle Ages?  

Actually, studies show urban living may not be as covid-risky as you might suspect. Last June researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Utah found that density wasn’t linked to infection rates in US counties after accounting for metropolitan-area population, socioeconomic factors, and health-care infrastructure; rather, connectivity between counties through such things as travel mattered more for viral spread and mortality. A paper published by Germany’s IZA Institute of Labor Economics in July found that while covid-19 was more likely to show up sooner in denser counties, population density didn’t correlate with the overall number of cases and deaths.

Cities are resilient, just like the people who live there.

In other words, when it comes to the coronavirus, density isn’t destiny. New York City was initially the US epicenter of the pandemic in part because of its status as an international destination, but its weekly caseload dropped

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By: Andrew Giambrone
Title: Why cities will come back stronger after covid
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Published Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2021 11:00:00 +0000