New York City was hit hard by COVID-19, which exposed health and social inequities. But Dr. Graham Barr says there are useful lessons for the future.

This is the third of five articles by students at The Hewitt School in New York City about how COVID-19 has affected that city and the United States. You can read all of the stories here.

Dr. Graham Barr, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, was at U.S. ground zero — New York City — when COVID-19 hit last year.

In our interview, Barr tells of patients dying before they could reach the emergency room during the early days of the pandemic, and of how a lockdown and social distancing measures quickly cut the number of patients and dead.

New York offers lessons from COVID-19 for the future.

Barr discusses “massive disparities” in who was hit hardest by the coronavirus — people of color, immigrants and essential workers — and pinpoints structural deficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that contributed to the large number of deaths in the United States despite extraordinary efforts by hospital personnel.

In a final note of optimism, Barr notes that relatively simple social distancing measures significantly reduced the number of COVID-19 cases — a lesson to remember for any future pandemic.

Three questions to consider:

  1. What relatively simple measures contributed to a slowdown in the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to New York hospitals?
  2. Who was hardest hit by the pandemic in New York and why?
  3. What positive lesson does Dr. Barr draw for any future pandemic?
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Hanna Rahman is in her third year at the Hewitt School in New York City. She is interested in law and international affairs. Rahman leads her school’s debate club and runs cross country and track. She is the co-chair of the CAFE (Cultural Awareness for Everyone) committee.

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