In the United States, didn’t covid-19 burst into New York, the largest city in America? Doesn’t the density of these 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?
In fact, studies show that city life may not be as risky as you might think. Last June, researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Utah discovered that density was unrelated to infection rates in US counties after accounting for metro area population, socio-economic factors, and health care infrastructure; rather, connectivity between counties through things like travel mattered more for viral spread and mortality. An article published by the German Institute for Labor Economics IZA in July found that while covid-19 was more likely to appear earlier in denser counties, population density did not correlate with the total number of cases and deaths.
Cities are resilient, and so are the people who live in them.
In other words, when it comes to the coronavirus, density is not fate. New York was originally in the United States epicenter of the pandemic partly due to its status as an international destination, but its weekly workload fall that security measures have taken root. (Case numbers there increased again last fall as hot spots have reemerged and the the holidays have arrived, and again in February as new variants are spreading, although vaccinations promise to bring them down again.)
Rural counties of Alaska, Colorado and Texas, far from densely populated centers, were hit hard in early 2021, each with more than 100 daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the New York Times. Yet high density cities Asia and Australia were able to bring the coronavirus under control last year. same China, where covid-19 was first discovered, brought the pandemic under control for its 1.4 billion inhabitants, 60% of whom live in cities.
This is not to say that density is irrelevant for the transmission of covid-19, or that we fully understand how the disease spreads. Some research, including a study published last July by JAMA Network Open, has population density linked to the spread of the coronavirus. A study published in the journal PLOS One in December concluded that “density matters”, although it seemed to make more of a difference in the later stages of the outbreaks than in the beginning.