Photographers across the country are documenting an amazing sight: empty streets in some of the largest cities in the United States, if not the world, as places like New York, Illinois, California, and Louisiana beg residents to stay inside, practice social distancing, and self-quarantine if possible to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
Satellite images of most of America’s major cities show desolate urban wastelands.
In New York, where traffic typically clogs the streets 24 hours a day, thoroughfares are clear and subways are empty.
Manhattan's coronavirus clear-out: Aerial photos show the near-deserted streets of New York City as De Blasio shuts all bars, restaurants, cinemas and theaters pic.twitter.com/XMX3J5oTxi
— Sadat Afsar Ali (@SadatAfsar) March 16, 2020
One photographer captioned the shocking scene: “New York City, population 8.623 million, Subway population at rush hour = two people and a cat.”
Photos of the day – Coronavirus scare
Population of New York City = 8.623 million (2017)
Subway population at rush hour = two people and a cat https://t.co/If56BhhLvC pic.twitter.com/89UjW0BemZ
— Dane B. McFadhen (@DaneMcFadhen) March 11, 2020
Reuters captured empty subway cars.
An empty subway train is seen during the coronavirus outbreak in New York City. More images of eerily quiet cities across America: https://t.co/H2GNtXP4SE 📷 Jeenah Moon pic.twitter.com/u8KkGNMlZY
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) March 18, 2020
Times Square, which is usually shoulder to shoulder, stood empty yesterday.
An empty Times Square is seen in New York City, and more photos of the day: https://t.co/RkbOZgbG5X 📷 Jeenah Moon pic.twitter.com/rTyWMn0Qqe
— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) March 20, 2020
Chicago, likewise, is empty. Stores along the famous “Magnificent Mile” — the city’s high-end and luxury shopping district — are boarded up to prevent looting.
Scenes from Chicago: A deserted Daley Plaza, an Empty L, and the bleak Bean. Photos by @WGNNews photographer @KevinDoellman. #coronavirus #pandemic #COVID19 #SocialDistancing pic.twitter.com/CBbBhcOuYK
— Mike Lowe (@MikeLoweReports) March 22, 2020
I’ve never seen Chicago so empty and boarded up. This is extremely eerie. #chicago #Chicagolockdown #COVID19chicago pic.twitter.com/2hziEzqYSk
— Kurt Wuckert Jr | GorillaPool.com 🍌🍌 (@kurtwuckertjr) March 21, 2020
Chicago is under a “shelter in place” restriction and residents have been instructed to remain at home until at least April 7, unless they must leave for a necessary item, like groceries or medicine.
Los Angeles, California, famous for its incredible traffic, is also deserted, with residents under a similar order to remain in their homes until the threat of a coronavirus pandemic passes.
Has any Los Angeles highway ever been this empty? pic.twitter.com/5Npufjwyjp
— Dan Mace (@Dannmace) March 21, 2020
The shocking lack of crowds led one resident to ask if Los Angeles was, in fact, actually in a movie.
Downtown Los Angeles is very surreal right now. Chinatown is abandoned. Grand Park is empty. It’s rare to even see people. Everybody come clean? Come on, you can tell me. Are we in a movie? pic.twitter.com/wIyDEuF07g
— Dan Rice (@66_To_Cali) March 18, 2020
In New Orleans, Louisiana, the famous Bourbon Street, where parties rage nightly, is now a wasteland, populated only by rats.
With this Coronavirus, the city of New Orleans is on lockdown. And Bourbon Street is empty and full of rats & mice. Rats even know how hot Bourbon Street is. pic.twitter.com/XatT6osk4y
— Joshua Guss (@joshua504man) March 20, 2020
On Friday night, the area was all but abandoned.
An empty Bourbon Street on a Friday night. pic.twitter.com/1RFBD2rq4t
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) March 21, 2020
Just days ago, Florida’s governor was begging Spring Breakers to empty Florida’s beaches, lest the contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Now, Miami’s famous South Beach sits empty.
Miami South Beach completely empty! 😳 pic.twitter.com/qZEi1AOg5e
— Jonathan Carlton (@JonCarltonUK) March 21, 2020
The phenomenon isn’t limited to the United States. Landmarks all over the globe are being abandoned in the name of “social distancing” — the easiest and, arguably the most effective, way to ensure coronavirus does not spread further.
Bondi Beach in Australia has no sunbathers.
Bondi Beach is empty as New South Wales begins lockdown. https://t.co/iLysVdiroU pic.twitter.com/mYxSoZVYBh
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) March 22, 2020
Drone video of Paris, France, landmarks shows a lonely Eiffel Tower.
Drone video shows streets surrounding Paris' famous landmarks virtually empty as France remains on lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak https://t.co/tgkzsnngFw pic.twitter.com/XPTJx7fZdY
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 19, 2020
London’s tourist areas and tube are empty.
London is so empty :’( pic.twitter.com/sdLnXTgOTr
— ☆𝔄𝔫𝔫𝔞𝔟𝔢𝔩𝔩𝔢☆ (@awkobell) March 20, 2020
Rome is deserted as well. Italy, of course, has suffered some of the most coronavirus casualties of any country in the world, including China, where the virus originated.
In “Rome, Closed City,” the filmmaker Mo Scarpelli walks the city’s normally bustling streets, filming empty squares, solitary masked pedestrians, and the occasional impervious pigeon. https://t.co/dSiHJNviVl pic.twitter.com/UAMq7E6KCL
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) March 21, 2020
Barcelona, likewise, is empty.
"Is this Barcelona?"
Great photogallery of images of an empty #Barcelona
by @jordiborras for @lamira
+pics> https://t.co/LM7bb3k1w9 pic.twitter.com/fKvrJ9ScjP
— Catalan Culture (@CatalanCulture) March 17, 2020
The story is eerily the same across the world. On Tuesday, in a photo essay, The New York Times labeled the phenomenon, “The Great Empty.”
“Today a different global calamity has made scarcity the necessary condition of humanity’s survival. Cafes along the Navigli in Milan hunker behind shutters along with the Milanese who used to sip aperos beside the canal. Times Square is a ghost town, as are the City of London and the Place de la Concorde in Paris during what used to be the morning rush,” the outlet reported. “The photographs here all tell a similar story: a temple in Indonesia; Haneda Airport in Tokyo; the Americana Diner in New Jersey. Emptiness proliferates like the virus.”
In the United States, the lockdown is likely to stretch well into April. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he’d like to see businesses begin to reopen around Easter, April 12, but experts suggest that any return to normalcy will be slow. Many cities could be sparsely populated for many months to come.