Devastation caused by the global spread of COVID-19 is tragic. Beloved cities around the world – from Wuhan, to Milan to New York – have been at the epicentre of outbreaks. As such, the pandemic places public health concerns front and centre for the foreseeable future. At the same time, coronavirus threatens to derail economic activity as a result of the need to enact physical distancing measures, quarantines and lockdowns. These measures form a key and notably low-tech component of the public health professional’s toolbox and are an effective way to slow the spread of disease. In turn, slowing down disease transmission helps to ensure that our healthcare systems have sufficient capacity to protect and save as many lives as possible.
Moving from lockdown to reopening is filled with uncertainty and complexity. Closing was, in retrospect, much simpler than reopening. As cities around the world learn what it means to live with the coronavirus pandemic until a vaccine or other solution is found, the only constant is change. And undoubtedly, cities will change. The question is: how will they change? What future lies ahead for density, for streets and public spaces, for institutions, for thriving businesses and robust communities? What steps can we take to protect our cities moving forward? What actions, taken now, will lead to the cities we want?