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  • Writer's pictureSteve Price

After the pandemic, human nature will keep cities alive

Sprawl may surge for a time if we ignore the fundamental needs of human habitat.

Commentators in the newspapers and social media are predicting Americans will return to auto-oriented suburbia after the frightening experience of the COVID-19 pandemic—that low density suburbs will increase in popularity by offering a sanitary separation from other people that denser, walkable communities don’t. But this perfectly logical deduction ignores the complexity of our animal motivations.

Density is being blamed as the handmaid of the pandemic, which in the future will turn people off from walkable towns and cities. It makes rational sense: more people in a given area exposes you to more diseased people. Yet all current evidence shows that coronavirus is spread by exhalations of droplets from an infected person to another nearby person within undivided space, especially indoors. There is no indication that a wall with two layers of drywall and sound insulation between apartment neighbors is riskier than a barrier of lawn and shrubs. There are so many factors influencing the spread. If density is at fault, how do you explain the disparity in death rates between New York City, measured in the thousands, and Hong Kong, with only a handful?

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Jan 04, 2021

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