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The Local Policies That Will Outlast the Pandemic

In America’s largest cities, new programs to boost public space and housing were among the most prevalent and enduring Covid responses.

This street in New York City is one of many that closed to vehicle traffic during the pandemic to allow more space for pedestrians and bikers. 

This street in New York City is one of many that closed to vehicle traffic during the pandemic to allow more space for pedestrians and bikers. 

Photographer: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s recent guidance that fully vaccinated people can gather once again in small groups is a clear sign that we are on our way back to a semblance of normalcy. But among the signs that things will not go back to the way they were are positive policy changes in cities that the Covid-19 pandemic wrought. 

Early on in the pandemic, lockdowns brought urban places to a halt. Mayors and other local officials stepped up to rapidly respond and provide needed help to communities. But city leaders did not have the context for how to respond, since the last comparable U.S. event was the Spanish flu of 1918, and so the early days saw a scramble to respond with little guidance from the federal government.