The pandemic will cleave America in two

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Some will emerge from this crisis disrupted and shaken, but ultimately stable. Others will come out of it with much more lasting scars.

Viruses aren’t picky. They tear through neighborhoods and nations, infecting whomever they can, and the new coronavirus is no exception: The pain of the present pandemic will be felt—is already being felt—by just about everyone in the United States and all over the world, in one way or another. After the pandemic has run its course, no one will be wholly untouched.

At the same time, there will be stark disparities in how certain segments of the American population experience this crisis. Some of these disparities will be the result of luck or coincidence—a matter of where someone happened to travel, what line of work they chose, or what city they live in. But in a country that was highly unequal in so many ways well before it had a confirmed case of COVID-19, other disparities will be sadly predictable, falling along racial and class lines, as well as other fateful divides.

In the coming months and years, there will really be two pandemics in America. One will be disruptive and frightening to its victims, but thanks to their existing advantages and lucky near misses with the virus, they will likely emerge from it relatively stable—physically, psychologically, and financially. The other pandemic, though, will devastate those who survive it, leaving lasting scars and altering life courses.

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