New York City accounts for about 40% of the entire population in the State of New York, and it has one of the highest population densities in the world, with about 270,000 per each square mile . Recent studies have shown that highly populated cities have been severely impacted by COVID-19, especially where there are several households with more than 2 people living together . Income level and race have proven to be other factors determining the likelihood of being disproportionally affected by the pandemic .
If NYC has soon became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States in early March of 2020, what happened next and what is happening now ?
First of all, let’s talk about numbers. According to The New York Times, as of February 4th, 2021, the total number of COVID-19 cases in NYC, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 623,713 . As the NYT chart shows, NYC went through two waves: the first one, between mid-March and May 2020, and the second one, starting in December 2020, with now a -12% of cases (14-day change) . By looking at the NYT map (whose source is the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), which highlights the number of total cases per each of the zip codes, those that as of today, February 4th, 2021, account for 1 in 11 people getting COVID-19, are concentrated in the areas of Staten Island and South West Queens . Even with less number of cases per capita, the areas that have been mainly affected by the pandemic seem to be those in East Queens, South-East Brooklyn, and The Bronx .
Many scholars and journalists have tirelessly studied and observed how COVID-19 has impacted NYC throughout the months, trying to imagine what will be the future of the city.
The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs has published several studies about the COVID-19 Economic Impact, highlighting how different sectors have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but also how people have been . For instance, between July and September 2020, the households that faced difficulties in paying the previous month’s rent were predominantly habited by Black and Asians . This was coupled with a widespread difficulty for people living in NYC in going back to work after having lost it during the pandemic; thus, 41% of jobs that were lost during the pandemic were not yet regained by October 2020 . When it comes to the sectors predominantly affected by the pandemic, according to the same policy center, entertainment and hospitality registered over -60% and -40%, respectively, of job loss between February and December 2020 .
Now, let’s get to the question everyone that has lived, lives, or desires to live in NYC, is asking: Will NYC come back?
The answer is that we do not know when (I will let you decide what it does imply). According to John Rennie Short (University of Maryland) and Michael J. Orlando (University of Colorado), two experts of urbanism, COVID-19, as other catastrophes including the 9/11, “won’t kill cities” . According to the scholars, cities like NYC, are driven by forces, especially economic ones, which allow them regaining their strength, power, dynamism, and as someone who has ever lived in NYC would tell, vibe, that distinguish cities for their resilience . There are several studies on why this has occurred in the past and it is likely to occur in the future, but there is one sentence that caught my attention in the article above…“they will survive because they are one of humanity’s greatest inventions” (which also cites the famous NYT bestseller “Triumph of the City”)  .
I want to conclude this brief piece that wanted to merely summarize a few points and reflections about the impact of COVID-19 on one of the places I love the most on earth, by reiterating that the city that never sleeps is certainly Times Square and the billboards, Wall Street and the financial district, Central Park and its squirrels, but mostly, NYC is its people. And Newyorkers, never give up.