Manhattan Institute reports on population density in the Time of COVID-19

Although population density is one factor in how hard COVID-19 hits an urban center, good governance and personal responsibility (Wash your hands!) play an even bigger part. According to a new article by Michael Hendrix just published at City Journal:

It turns out that population density isn’t the key determinant of a city’s susceptibility to Covid-19. Outbreaks correlate instead with preexisting health problems, social norms, and the quality of governance. Disease prevalence also tracks with rates of tourism and recreational amenities, which rural areas also enjoy (their rates of infection are keeping pace with denser cities). Ironically, a large, dense city may be better equipped to fight infectious diseases. Cities typically have a higher concentration of hospitals, medical professionals, and public-health officials. In addition, they foster strong norms that, as smartphone tracking confirms, encourage the social distancing that can flatten the case-growth rate.

Not cancelling beach parties during Spring Break nor Mardi Gras in New Orleans were big governance mistakes. Actually participating in those (and similar) large-group activities is a big personal responsibility mistake.

Out here in Southern California, you may have grown weary of daily news updates by Governor Newsom and Mayors Garcetti (Los Angeles) and Garcia (Long Beach) but the early lockdown has indeed “flattened the curve” — allowing the State to ship ventilators to Nevada, New York, and New Jersey.

However, politicians talking into microphones in front of cameras should not get all the credit. Cities, service districts, school districts, businesses, non-profits, and just plain people were already applying common-sense measures to limit the spread of the disease. It doesn’t require a politician to know that better personal hygiene is a good idea in a pandemic. Those quickly-emptied store shelves were more than annoying — they were stark evidence that people were taking COVID-19 seriously prior to official lockdowns.

So pat yourself on the back — and wash your hands!

Stay safe, stay healthy.