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The Legacy of the Lost Year Will Be Devastating Inequality

Covid amplified every structural bias that exists.

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Photo illustration: 731; Photos: Getty Images; Science Source

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This magazine published a cover-to-cover special issue that week—our last in the office—called “The Lost Year.” At the time, though, fear of the disease was leavened with hope that it might bring people together. In one of his eagerly watched press conferences, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Covid a “great equalizer.” So did Madonna, who released a video of herself mostly immersed in a rose-petal-strewn bathtub saying, “We’re all in the same boat, and if the ship goes down we’re all going down together.”

The ship went down, all right, but we didn’t all go down together. Covid amplified inequality—by race as well as income, gender, occupation, and nationality. For many, the lost year threatens to become a lost decade akin to America’s doldrums after the deep recession of 2007-09 or Japan’s long slump after its asset bubble popped in 1991.