When the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, residents in a nearby suburb thought they were safe. Zuoling New Town, a bustling community of retired farmers, factory workers and white-collar professionals, was 22 miles from the market where the outbreak appeared to have started.
But as the virus spread, Zuoling emerged as a stubborn hot spot of infections, and a somber lesson in how the state’s effort to contain the virus left some communities vulnerable. The leadership’s top-down campaign relied on grass-roots mobilization, and the very newness and isolation of Zuoling proved to be a weakness, depriving residents of food supplies, medical care and labor.
Residents crammed into the only large supermarket to stock up. Those worried about fevers crowded the local clinic, and many were sent back to their high-rise homes, sometimes spreading the virus. The nearest public hospital assigned to take patients was 10 miles away, making it difficult to get treatment without a car.
“I never imagined that this would hit our home,” said Zhang Jin, a 47-year-old resident. His mother, Yan Yinzhen, who was living with him, contracted what doctors believed was the coronavirus, possibly from a neighbor. Mr. Zhang, his wife and father all fell ill.
“We’ve lost confidence,” said Mr. Zhang, a school bus driver. “Nobody in the neighborhood took charge.”
Reporting was contributed by Peter Eavis, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Choe Sang-Hun, Thomas Fuller, Sheri Fink, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Amy Qin and Sui-Lee Wee.