New York City Is No Longer The Epicenter

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As the US passes 100,000 coronavirus deaths, the New York City metro area holds an unwelcome distinction: the single largest concentration of COVID-19 deaths of anywhere in the United States, the country with more deaths from the disease than anywhere in the world.

The metro area — which includes the city’s five boroughs plus 18 nearby counties in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — accounts for just 6% of the country’s population. But by mid-April, it had accounted for half of the country’s coronavirus deaths. With cases and deaths growing exponentially, the city’s hospitals were overwhelmed to the point where some began using refrigerated trucks to hold the dead, and city officials hired workers to dig mass graves. During the first half of April, the metro area recorded an average of more than 1,000 deaths per day.

But then — after weeks of mandated social distancing, school closures, and restrictions on nonessential businesses — the tide turned. Although the New York City metro area is still experiencing more deaths per capita than most other parts of the country are, its daily death toll is steadily declining and is now at roughly one-eighth of its peak.

At the same time, deaths in the rest of the country have surpassed it — due, in part, to surges elsewhere:

As it happens, this shift happened roughly midway through the United States’ somber march toward 100,000 deaths. Although the milestone is largely symbolic, splitting it in half reveals a stark change in NYC’s centrality to the unfolding epidemic:

These trends, of course, are not guaranteed to continue. On Friday, recognizing the decreasing strain of the coronavirus on hospitals, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order permitting gatherings of up to 10 people for “any lawful purpose or reason.” Whether coronavirus cases and deaths will surge as restrictions loosen — in New York and across the country — remains to be seen. You can track the latest trends via BuzzFeed News’ live charts and maps.

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