Coronavirus, Spain, New York: Your Thursday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the in its fight to stop the outbreak. Below is his conversation with our Briefings contributor Jonathan Wolfe, for our Coronavirus Briefing.

What is it about New York City that has made the virus surge here?

According to the experts, the single biggest factor is simply the density of the city. Twenty-eight thousand people live in every square mile of New York.

New York has been testing a lot of people. Are the big numbers just a product of that?

We looked into it. New York has conducted more tests than any other state. Even after you account for that, however, the number of cases in New York is much higher.

If you just compare the percentage of tests that have come back positive, it’s about 25 percent in New York, and in California it’s about 5 percent. That doesn’t necessarily mean that five times as many people in New York have it, but it is a sign that the virus is probably more widespread in our community than in California.

What would explain the difference?

What the experts think is that this virus was circulating in the city for much longer than we thought, and it spread before we put in place these social-distancing measures. We are starting to see the ramifications of that now, days and weeks after the virus spread, because it takes time for symptoms to show up.

Does New York’s experience offer any lesson?

I think the most important lesson for the general public is to take this seriously, because the number of cases can escalate extremely quickly, and it will catch you off guard.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Mike

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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