New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic may turn out to be the most consequential failure in the country. Not only does the New York City area skew America’s overall numbers when it comes to coronavirus cases and deaths, but recent genetic studies suggest that New York also served as a hub for the spread of the virus across the United States.
New research reported in The New York Times indicates that a wave of infections swept from New York City through much of the United States before the city instituted social distancing requirements to stem the tide. Coronavirus spread from New York to states as far afield as Louisiana, Ohio, Idaho, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, and even the West Coast, according to geneticists who tracked signature mutations of the virus, travel histories of infected people, and models of the outbreak from infectious disease experts.
“We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country,” Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told The New York Times. While travel from other cities like Seattle also sparked infections across the country, New York City was the primary launching pad of the coronavirus in the U.S.
“It looks like most of the domestic spread is basically people traveling out from New York,” Dr. Kari Stefansson, founder and chief executive of deCODE Genetics, a leading genome analysis firm based in Reykjavik, Iceland, told The Times.
Overall, Dr. Grubaugh estimated that viruses spreading from New York account for 60 to 65 percent of the infections identified across the country.
To illustrate just how large that shift would be, and just how much the New York City area is skewing the U.S.’s coronavirus statistics, PJ Media ran some numbers using the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus statistics and the CIA’s World Fact Book estimates for July 2020.
The thirteen New York City area counties of Queens, Kings, Bronx, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, New York, Hudson, Essex, Middlesex, Richmond, Bergen, and Union have 351,044 confirmed coronavirus cases, roughly 28 percent of the U.S.’s total of 1,244,119. These counties also account for 23,921 coronavirus deaths, roughly 32 percent of America’s total 74,844 deaths (these numbers are likely inflated due to the practice of funeral homes writing “COVID-19” on death certificates even without a confirmed coronavirus death).
If the New York City area does account for between 60 and 65 percent of coronavirus cases elsewhere across the U.S., that represents between 535,845 and 580,499 cases. That means only between 312,576 cases and 357,230 cases came from other entry points, including hotspots like Seattle, Wash., or Miami, Fla. In other words, only between 25 percent and 29 percent of all U.S. coronavirus cases originated from places other than the New York City area.
The vast majority of U.S. coronavirus cases either happened in the Tri-State Area or came from the Tri-State Area.
But it gets worse: this has a huge impact on how the U.S. stacks up with other countries. Many media outlets have breathlessly repeated that America has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world, along with the most deaths. In terms of raw numbers reported, this is true, but countries like China, Iran, and Russia have vastly underreported their caseloads, so any such comparisons must be taken with a grain of salt.
Comparisons should take population into account, and the U.S. does not have the most cases or deaths per capita. Here are the countries with the most cases per million people:
1. Ireland: 4,477 cases per million.
2. Spain: 4,407.
3. Belgium: 4,285.
4. Switzerland: 3,766.
5. USA: 3,736.
6. Italy: 3,482.
7. Britain: 3,151.
8. Portugal: 2,672.
9. France: 2,564.
10. Netherlands: 2,469.
Similarly, the U.S. does not lead the other countries in deaths per million people, either.
1. Belgium: 701 deaths per million.
2. Spain: 517.
3. Italy: 483.
4. Britain: 465.
5. France: 380.
6. Netherlands: 312.
7. Sweden: 304.
8. Ireland: 281.
9. Switzerland: 226.
10. U.S.A.: 225.
Yet if the New York City area were its own country, it would rank high at the top, both for cases per million and for deaths per million. In terms of coronavirus cases per million, America drops to eighth place without the New York City area.
1. NYC: 17,552 cases per million.
2. Ireland: 4,477 cases per million.
3. Spain: 4,407.
4. Belgium: 4,285.
5. Switzerland: 3,766.
6. Italy: 3,482.
7. Britain: 3,151.
8. U.S.A.: 2,682.
9. Portugal: 2,672.
10. France: 2,564.
In terms of deaths per million, New York City again blows other countries out of the water — and without the New York City area deaths, America no longer ranks in the top ten.
1. NYC: 1,196 deaths per million.
2. Belgium: 701.
3. Spain: 517.
4. Italy: 483.
5. Britain: 465.
6. France: 380.
7. Netherlands: 312.
8. Sweden: 304.
9. Ireland: 281.
10. Switzerland: 226.
The U.S. would rank eleventh, with 153 deaths per million.
Yet, thanks to the recent research showing how the New York City area infected the rest of the country, PJ Media can estimate the number of cases per million America would have without the New York hotspot. Taking the lowball estimate that the Tri-State Area is only responsible for 60 percent of U.S. coronavirus cases outside the New York area, the U.S. would have 357,230 coronavirus cases — driving the rate per million down to 1,073.
This lower number would put America’s number of cases per million not just down below the Netherlands (2,469) and Sweden (2,462), but below even Russia’s misleading figure (1,248) and Iran’s deceptively low count (1,213).
It may not have been possible to prevent the coronavirus’ spread from New York to the rest of America, but these figures shine a light on just how much the New York City area skews America’s numbers during this pandemic. These figures should also remind Americans that Bill de Blasio originally opposed a coronavirus lockdown in the Big Apple. While the lockdowns may not be effective in other parts of the country, this data suggests New York City was the most important place for a lockdown, and de Blasio pushed against it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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