How the coronavirus took advantage of humanity’s essential weakness
I am writing this on April 10, 2020. Twenty-five days have passed since San Francisco became the first US city to impose a stay-at-home order on its residents. It feels like six months. As the covid-19 pandemic has advanced across the planet at dizzying speed, economies and health-care systems have toppled like dominos. At this moment, a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University shows 1,617,204 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 97,039 deaths worldwide. That includes 18,279 deaths in Italy, 16,686 in the US, 15,843 in Spain, 12,210 in France, and 7,978 in the UK. By the time I finish writing, these numbers will all have markedly increased.
In China, by contrast, the death toll hovers at around 3,340. This week, people began emerging from lockdown in Wuhan, the city to which the outbreak was mostly contained. New York City’s official toll is now 5,150, and that doesn’t count people who were never tested for covid-19. In the first five days of April, 1,125 New Yorkers died on the streets or at home, an eightfold increase over the same period last year. The real toll, in other words, is surely at least double that of Wuhan, which is a larger city, and continues to climb at a terrifying rate.