Health and Healthcare Systems

New York is the epicentre of America's coronavirus outbreak. How is the city coping? 

A worker cleans an empty hall in Industry City, where are the shops have been closed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Yang - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly

Nearly half of all of the United state's coronavirus cases are in New York state. Image: REUTERS/Stephen Yang

Sean Fleming
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Global Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Global Health

  • The US has more COVID-19 infections than any other country.
  • Almost half of these are in New York state.
  • New York City is in the coronavirus firing line.

“I live in what is usually a really noisy neighborhood,” says Stéphanie Thomson, New York resident and a former editor at the World Economic Forum. “You normally hear lots of traffic, car horns, people shouting in the street, construction work. All you hear now are sirens.”

Have you read?

Almost half of all COVID-19 infections in the US are in the state of New York. Of the 1,307 coronavirus deaths the US has experienced, 466 have taken place there, too. But the city of New York has been hit hardest.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) lift a patient that was identified to have coronavirus disease (COVID-19) into an ambulance while wearing protective gear, as the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in New York City, New York, U.S., March 26, 2020.  REUTERS/Stefan Jeremiah - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Emergency medical technicians lift a patient identified to have COVID-19 into an ambulance Image: REUTERS/Stefan Jeremiah

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the city reached 365 on Thursday, up from 280 the day before, with more than 23,000 confirmed cases in total. The city that never sleeps is now living under lockdown. A state of emergency has been declared that means all non-essential businesses have been forced to close.

A man crosses a nearly empty 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
A man crosses a nearly empty 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease. Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar
A deserted Times Square is pictured following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Times Square – usually one of the busiest places in New York. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“I think New Yorkers were quite slow to realize just how serious this was,” says Thomson. “We had our first confirmed coronavirus case on 1 March and for the first two weeks, life seemed to continue somewhat normally.”

“I have an immuno-compromised baby at home, so I was following all the developments in Italy and beyond really closely, which meant I had a better sense than most of how bad it might get, and how fast. On 12 March, I went to the supermarket to do a big shop. I was wearing a mask and gloves, and I sanitized everything I came into contact with. I got so many funny looks from people. The last time I went for a walk, a week ago, everyone was wearing masks.”

Grocery stores are among the essential businesses that can remain open, along with banks, food producers, healthcare services and pharmacies, laundry facilities, and even bicycle repair shops.

The mood in the city started to change on 13 March, according to Thomson. “Rumours started circulating that the authorities were going to be shutting down businesses. By that evening, there were lines to get into all the big supermarkets across the city and it was impossible to buy cleaning supplies, toilet paper or bottled water.”

Muhammad Awais, 36, retail manager wears a disposable face mask at a safety equipment store in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Yang - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Grocery stores can remain open Image: REUTERS/Stephen Yang

Since the huge spike in infections, other states have insisted visitors from New York state be quarantined for at least 14 days, or even stay away altogether.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
The 10 most infected US states. Image: Worldometers

Even though parks and playgrounds are also still open, many people - like millions of others in countries around the globe - are limiting their exposure to the outside world. Social distancing rules mean people venturing out must stay at least two metres apart. Although for the small number of commuters left travelling to work every day that is unlikely to be a problem, parts of New York remain busy.

“I've heard neighbours say that Prospect Park is still packed with people, which is probably why the authorities are now threatening to close down all the parks,” Thomson says.

“It's hard because most New Yorkers don't have any outdoor space, and you start getting cabin fever if you stay inside for too long. There's talk about them closing down the roads to traffic so that people can go for walks and still stay 6 feet away from others. Sooner or later the authorities have to do something to help people get out safely for a walk each day. ”

A commuter on the Staten Island Ferry wears a protective face mask and sits alone during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
A Staten Island Ferry commuter wearing a face mask. Image: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

The city authorities have set up a food delivery programme called GetFoodNYC for people who are classed as vulnerable and food-insecure. Schools have been closed until at least 20 April. But that was a decision that raised concerns about how children from poorer backgrounds might cope, Thomson explains.

“A quarter of NYC children are from food-insecure families, so school is not just where they learn, it's where they get free meals. In the end, they set up a system whereby families can go to schools and get free packed lunches to take home.”

More than 100,000 New York City schoolchildren live in shelters and temporary accommodation. Meanwhile, there are wider concerns about how COVID-19 might impact the city’s homeless population.

A homeless person crosses a deserted 7th Ave in Times Square during the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
There are concerns about how COVID-19 might affect homeless people living in New York City. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has received a significant amount of praise for his response to the crisis, a sentiment echoed by city-resident Thomson.

“I feel really lucky that we have a governor like Andrew Cuomo in New York. His daily press briefings have become must-watch TV. Cuomo has very clearly said that what matters most is the health of New Yorkers, and he seems to be doing everything he can to protect that, even if that means the economy takes a hit. You can rebuild an economy, but you can't bring back lost lives.”

NYPD officers ride horses down a deserted 7th Ave in Times Square during the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Mounted police on a deserted 7th Avenue. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Feeding the future: why Renovation and Reinvention are key to saving our food system

Juliana Weltman Glezer

June 13, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum