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The Atlantic

This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic

It’s not R.

High school students standing in a socially distanced grid in an outdoor setting.
Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP via Getty Images

By Zeynep Tufekci

There’s something strange about this coronavirus pandemic. Even after months of extensive research by the global scientific community, many questions remain open.

Why, for instance, was there such an enormous death toll in northern Italy, but not the rest of the country? Just three…

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