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SARS and the City

Faced with SARS, New York has largely taken a business-as-usual approach. But this business is far from usual. And if we don’t pass this test, how can we possibly cope with bioterrorism?

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New York City is the gateway to America. Through that gateway each year stream millions of visitors and immigrants who are the engine of the city’s economy—many of whom, sadly, must now be considered possible carriers of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

And they’re still coming.

Some 20,000 travelers from SARS-affected regions come into the United States by plane each day, according to Dr. Martin Cetron, a deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When they land on these shores, this is what we greet them with: a card that alerts them to the symptoms of SARS and urges them to tell a doctor and public-health officials about their travel if they become ill. It’s a token measure on the part of a government that’s simply not putting up an aggressive line of defense to make sure that New York City—or any other American city—doesn’t become the next Toronto. Or the next Beijing.

Instead, we’re protecting our already fragile confidence in business as usual, desperate not to add to the list of reasons why Americans are flying less and fewer international tourists are spending their money in New York City.

For the rest of this article, please buy the May 12-19, 2003 issue of New York Magazine.


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