Coronavirus lessons on density, mass transit, bureaucracy and censorship: They kill.

Coronavirus unknowns include how fatal it is and if we can make a vaccine. But we've already learned about four things that make the pandemic worse.

Coronavirus lessons on density, mass transit, bureaucracy and censorship: They kill.

The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, also known as COVID-19, is still spreading around the world. Even now, there are many things we don’t know: How fatal will it turn out to be when all the numbers are crunched? Did it escape from a Chinese lab? Can we make a vaccine? What’s the best treatment?

But there are some things that are becoming reasonably clear. Following are a few coronavirus lessons, useful now and in preparing for future events.

►Density kills. The coronavirus has been much more deadly in places like New York City or Boston than in rural settings. As demographer Joel Kotkin notes, Los Angeles has done much better than other big cities, because it’s less dense. “L.A.’s sprawling, multi-polar urban form, by its nature, results in far less “exposure density” to the contagion than more densely packed urban areas, particularly those where large, crowded workplaces are common and workers are mass-transit-dependent...

"In recent decades, this dispersed model has been increasingly disparaged by politicians, the media and people in academia who tend to favor the New York model of density and mass transit. Yet even before COVID-19 most Angelenos rejected their advice, preferring to live and work in dispersed patterns and traveling by car. This bit of passive civic resistance may have saved lives in this pandemic.”

Queens, New York, on April 29, 2020.

►Mass Transit kills. Kotkin mentions mass transit, and an MIT study found that NYC subways were a ”major disseminator” of the coronavirus in New York. This is unsurprising: New York City subways are crowded, poorly ventilated and filthy. The city is only just now starting to clean them every night. (A bit late.) Cars come with built-in social-distancing: With a car, you’re riding in a metal and glass bubble with filtered air. Subways and buses, not so much. Whether this virus sounds the ”death knell” for mass transit or not, people will be far more reluctant to ride packed vehicles in the future.

The Backstory:'Normal' is still a long way away. And the path will be precarious.

►Bureaucracy kills. Much of the fight against the coronavirus has also involved a fight against bureaucrats dead set on making things worse. Early on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, which raised the bar for testing requirements. As a result, hospitals and universities faced significant barriers to getting alternative tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Worse yet, the CDC tests turned out to be defective.

HOTLINE:Share your coronavirus story

As James R. Copland writes, this wasn’t political interference, but the work of professional bureaucrats: “The botched regulatory response in the United States owed little to the choices of political actors. The individuals running the FDA and CDC are experts in their field, not hacks.” Even distilleries that wanted to switch to making hand sanitizer, to alleviate deadly shortages in health care facilities and other institutions, were slowed by the FDA. Fixing things has required a lot of regulations to be overturned or suspended; hopefully we’ll think long and hard before reinstating them after the crisis is over.

►Censorship kills. The Chinese government censored reports of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, punished doctors who talked about it and lied to the world for weeks — while allowing flights from the infected area to carry people from Wuhan all over the world. Now some authoritarian types are claiming that the spread of virus misinformation on social media offers a new justification for censorship of ordinary people.

Mitch Albom:We're ready to move on. The coronavirus is not.

But with this disease, as usual, the lies and cover-ups of the allegedly responsible institutions have done far more damage than the delusions of individuals. Don’t trust China, and don’t trust Americans who want to emulate the Chinese government. Neither has your interests at heart.

No doubt we’ll learn many more lessons in the future. But for now, these lessons hold true. Bear them in mind.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of "The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself," is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/05/06/coronavirus-density-mass-transit-bureacracy-censorship-column/3075550001/

News Related

ORTHER NEWS

Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment is premature and deadly. We have not defeated COVID.

Desperate for crowds and adoration, Trump has put his most fervent supporters at risk of getting a deadly disease. Future historians will be astonished. Read more »

NFLPA president JC Tretter says NFL is putting season, players at risk with its coronavirus approach

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said Tuesday the NFL is putting the 2020 season at risk with its coronavirus approach, calling on the league to better “prioritize player safety.” “Like many other... Read more »

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he tested positive for the coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity. Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and... Read more »

Venice Film Festival forges ahead amid COVID-19 pandemic with reduced lineup

The show will go on for the Venice Film Festival in September, but with a few modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said Tuesday that they are pushing forward with plans for... Read more »

Amtrak offers buy-one, get-one promotion on its sleeper trains amid COVID-19 — with a catch

Amtrak wants you to have sweet dreams the next time you travel — so much so that it’s sweetening the deal on its sleeper “roomettes.” The rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free discount... Read more »

Florida teen treated with hydroxychloroquine at home before dying of COVID-19, report says

FORT MEYERS, Fla. – The family of a 17-year-old Florida girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a... Read more »

Mookie Betts worried MLB coronavirus testing woes could prevent him from ever playing for Dodgers

During nearly four months away from the game, Mookie Betts said he “stayed away from baseball to keep myself sane.” It’s not hard to understand why. The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player... Read more »

Tom Hanks doesn’t get ‘how common sense has somehow been put into question’ with coronavirus

Read more »

Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As concern about the state order spread online, some school leaders said: Not so fast. As Florida educators puzzle over how to start the new academic year, Gov. Ron... Read more »

Texas surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases after 4th of July holiday weekend

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reached 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, just 17 days after crossing the 100,000 threshold, a figure that took the state nearly four months to hit. The grim milestone came... Read more »