The spread of Covid-19 is not a cause by density, but by poverty and the massive wealth disparity in the United States. Combined with a weak to non-existent safety net for millions of displaced workers, the conditions are ripe for contagion spread. Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in an excellent article in the New York Times:
Imagine a low-wage worker, who holds two jobs to support her family and pay the rent, who has to work during this pandemic because her job is “essential,” who works when sick because she has no sick leave. She travels on a crowded bus, puts off medical care because she lacks insurance, and then returns to an apartment crammed with young children and elderly family members. Maybe she fills in on the night shift as an aide at a nursing home.
This all conspires to make her especially vulnerable to the coronavirus — with the result that her household, her nursing home and her neighbors all are liable to become sick as well. In this scenario, “the city” is not to blame for the explosion in cases of Covid-19.
That disease is devastating cities like New York because of the structure of health care, the housing market and the labor market, not because of their density. The spread of the coronavirus didn’t require cities — we have also seen small towns ravaged. Rather, cities were merely the front door, the first stop.
It’s not that there are too many people in cities. It’s that too many of their residents are poor, and many of them are members of the especially vulnerable black, Latino and Asian populations.