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Why New York Suffered When Other Cities Were Spared by Covid-19

The mayor, the CDC and a New York disease expert weigh in

Pedestrians walk through the Times Square on March 12.

Pedestrians walk through the Times Square on March 12.

Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

As of this week, at least 21,000 New Yorkers are dead from Covid-19, with a few dozen added to the city’s count every day. More than 3,000 have perished in nursing homes, many more in hospitals. Some died at home. The most brutal toll came among those who were old, poor and in the outer boroughs.

The city’s deaths are 10 times those of Los Angeles County’s. They’ve surpassed the 16,000 lives lost in Italy’s hard-hit Lombardy region. In the U.K., eight times as populous as New York City, about 37,500 have died.

With New York’s outbreak eclipsing others around the world, it’s logical to look for somebody to blame. The mayor, the governor, the president — a human foil for a microscopic villain. But that would be a simplistic approach to accounting for a new virus hitting a dense city, full of people who’d never faced a pandemic threat, enjoying a decade-long stretch of prosperity.